ASIA'S HIV/AIDS infection rate is surging. UNAIDS, a joint United Nations programme to fight the epidemic, recorded nearly one million new cases in Asia last year. The programme, which includes sponsors like the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, has found that another 7.2 million are living with the virus, one third of them between the ages of 15 and 24. Young people are at high risk. But their active participation can help fight the killer disease. Recently in Hong Kong, the International Planned Parent hood Federation (IPPF), a UK-based charity linking family planning organisations (FPOs) in over 180 countries, organised the second Regional Youth Forum. Representatives and young volunteers from 17 of the IPPF's 24 member countries in the East and Southeast Asia and Oceania (ESEAO) Region took part. The agenda included keeping 20 per cent of seats for young people at the global and regional board of IPPF and FPOs. Being the IPPF's official policy since 1992, the decision came amid failure in reducing teen pregnancy and the discovery that a youth-to-youth approach worked better, said the planning officer at the ESEAO regional office Naomi Imani. 'Adults would like to think they know best,' she said. 'But when it comes to working with young people, we have to call on them to tell us what they need.' Until now, though, the plan has been stalled. Only one young person sits on the 34-member ESEAO board. The problem is limited seats. Each country is allowed only one or two, depending on their member status. 'In some countries it is a privilege [to go overseas]. If the country can only send one, nobody wants to send a young person,' Ms Imani said. 'Also, it is difficult to convince adults that young people can contribute.' But getting more young people involved is an urgent task. Across Asia, young people are not getting enough accurate information on sexual and reproductive health, either because they are not interested, or adults are not providing it, Ms Imani said. In Cambodia, fighting HIV among young people is a pressing issue. But with only five clinics in 21 provinces, Ms Math Sophea from the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia said reaching the rural youth was difficult. In China, different versions of textbooks for teachers, parents and students have recently been made available, said Wang Xinguang, a 23-year-old volunteer at the non-governmental China Family Planning Association. 'It is most difficult to convince parents [about sex education]. Teachers also need help to open up,' he said. Official attitudes are not always helpful. Some governments barred distribution of contraceptives to those who were single because officially, premarital sex did not exist, Ms Imani said. 'But we try to find ways around it,' she added. Back in Hong Kong, two young people will be sitting at the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong's 16-member council this year. Iris Yip Wing-yan, with two years of volunteer work experience at the association, is one. 'As the first step [of youth involvement], perhaps it is too soon to speak of strong influence,' said the 20-year-old. 'But it definitely gives us volunteers a voice to raise our expectations and ideas.'