|Cultural and social gender norms often restrict adolescent girls' access to basic information and knowledge, and prescribe an unequal and passive role in sexual decision making. This undermines their autonomy and exposes many of them to sexual coercion and abusive relationships. Adolsecent girls in the Region are disempowered and in a vulnerable situation. The empowerment of adolescents is crucial to the countries meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Likewise, traditional expectations related to masculinity are often associated with behaviors that increase the risk of HIV infection among men and adolescent boys (a high number of sexual partners, use of drugs or alcohol, and refusal to seek medical care for sexually transmitted infections).