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The changing social landscape brought on by new technology has helped create a ‘hidden epidemic’ of HIV among adolescents in the Asia-Pacific region.
Through research, policy support and direct outreach, UNICEF is joining the effort to reverse an alarming trend.
Adolescents with HIV also face stigma and discrimination, which can discourage them from seeking treatment.
“In order to tackle this issue, governments need better data on adolescents, strategies for HIV prevention, and adolescent-specific laws and policies,” says Shirley Mark Prabhu, HIV Specialist for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific.
“I was living in Bang Kapi at the time,” he recalls.
“We talked online for two months, then I came to Bangkok to meet him.
You can search for people by preference, including what kind of sex they’re into.” Nest practices safe sex with people he doesn’t know well, but not with his regular partners.
Once, after he accidently cut himself during unsafe sex, he went for an HIV test. “I was very tense, and it took time to build up my courage to get the test.
At first, he used Grindr and Jack’d, the most popular gay apps.
“These should include sex education in schools, condom distribution, and HIV testing and treatment services designed for adolescents.” In Thailand, for example, UNICEF has worked with the Government to reduce the age of consent for HIV tests to under 18, so that adolescents can access testing services without adult consent, which otherwise might act as a deterrent.
In addition, research on young at-risk communities has helped better understand behaviours that put adolescents at risk of HIV and to advocate for adolescent-specific strategies for HIV prevention.
I read all about HIV on the Internet – what would happen if I got a positive result, and what it’s like living on ARV [antiretroviral] drugs.” UNICEF is working with governments across the Asia-Pacific region to ensure they meet their obligations to protect adolescents’ health.
Those particularly at risk of contracting HIV include gay and bisexual teenagers, those who sell sex, injecting drug users, and transgender people.
BANGKOK, Thailand, 1 December 2015 – Nest is a 19-year-old living in Bangkok.