“We are faced with an obscene situation where those who are the most vulnerable are also the least likely to have the support they need to prevent HIV infection,” Executive Director Carol Bellamy said during an official visit to Ukraine. One UNICEF poll found that fewer than 70 per cent of Ukrainian teenagers knew that condom use was a means of preventing HIV infection. Most were also unaware that such practices as sexual abstinence, having fewer sexual partners and not injecting drugs also eliminated or lowered the rate of infection. Parent-to-child transmission of HIV rose to 13 per cent of total infections in 2001 from just 2 per cent in 1997. Some 57 per cent of infections are among males, but young females are increasingly becoming infected, UNICEF said. More than 80 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe are under 30 years old, unlike Western Europe and the United States, where only 30 per cent of HIV cases are among people younger than 30, the UN agency said. “Far too many young people face poverty, high unemployment and lack of hope – the lifeblood of the drug trade – which in turn feeds the HIV epidemic,” Ms. Bellamy said. “National and local leaders, with full support from the international community, must take immediate, concrete action to address the extreme vulnerability of young people to HIV infection.” On the question of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), only 20 per cent of households eat enough iodized salt to prevent them, UNICEF said. The deficiency is particularly acute in the north and west of the country and could impair the mental development of children. “Iodine deficiency disorders can be eliminated,” Ms. Bellamy said. “One teaspoon of iodine over a lifetime is sufficient to protect a person from IDD.” The challenge for Ukraine, beset with thyroid cancer because of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, is to enact legislation so that all salt produced in the country will be iodized, UNICEF said.