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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.“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.
Like many other gay adolescents, he uses mobile apps to meet up for dates. “I don’t like to have sex at the first meeting, I prefer to chat and get to know the person first.
But some of my friends just meet up for sex.” Nest (right) and friend Jesse look at gay dating apps on a smart phone, in Bangkok, Thailand.
The accessibility of mobile technology and social media has contributed to a rise in new HIV infections among adolescents in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a new UNICEF report.
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.