Every day, an estimated 330 young people in Asia and the Pacific are newly infected with HIV, according to a recent UNAIDS report. That means 14 new HIV cases among young people every hour.
It is estimated that 95% of all new infections among young people in Asia (young people aged 15-24) occur within the young cohort of most at risk populations, such as gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. Strategic HIV interventions focused on young MSM and transgender women are therefore highly crucial to stop the HIV epidemic.
HIV counseling and testing (HCT) services are more available than ever, yet the uptake of HCT among young MSM and transgender women is still deficient. At the same time, young MSM and transgender women are more than ever in need of sexual and mental health services such as HCT.
Studies have shown that the stresses created by stigma, inequality and harassment can expose LGBT people to heightened risk of psychological distress. Young people are further at risk because of issues unique to their age, such as restrictions on sexual health services and education aimed at young people, lack of financial independence, social and peer pressure, and concerns about confidentiality. These issues directly affect young people’s mental health and their ability to access ‘sensitive’ health services, such as HCT.
There needs to be a greater discussion and understanding about the issues affecting the mental health of young LGBT people. A conversation needs to be started about what kind of sexual health services, including targeted and youth-friendly HCT, can best address these issues.
As part of the 2016 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), under this year’s theme of “mental health and well-being,” APCOM and Youth Voices Count is launching the teaser of a video showcasing the issues that young MSM and transgender people face in accessing health services in Asia and the Pacific, many of which come under a mental health perspective.
This is the first effort in starting a conversation about the negative consequences of not having targeted and youth-friendly HCT for young MSM and transgender women. The complete video will be launched in August 2016, highlighting not only the issues affecting young MSM and transgender women, but also the recommendations to make the services more accessible to young people.