Young people under the age of 25 are disproportionately affected by HIV, comprising 40% of all new infections. What’s more, youth from key affected populations face several unique challenges. Sex workers, people who use drugs, women, and MSM of all ages face extreme difficulties accessing services in various regions across the globe. For young people in these populations the challenge is twofold, because even when there are existing networks and services [for key affected populations], they aren’t always in a position to meet the specific needs of youth. Moreover, similar to other age groups, young individuals in key affected populations face tremendous stigma and discrimination, but they may face even harsher judgement expressly because they are young.
Looking at Southeast Asia and the Pacific, over 95 per cent of new HIV infections among young people in the region are among MSM, sex workers, and people who use drugs – yet the majority of HIV resources in the region go towards prevention programmes targeting all young people.
Like young key affected populations elsewhere in the world, young key populations in this region face distinct challenges and have unique needs. For example, young MSM in the region have inadequate access to testing in treatment facilities and often can’t access services that are open only during the day when they are in school. For young people who use drugs, the age of first injection in Southeast Asia has steadily declined over the years – incarceration further heightens the risk of HIV among this increasingly young population. And, in many countries across the region, all young people must obtain parental consent in order to access HIV services, making it less likely that they will get tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.