Project Description

INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND:

South Asia’s young people are now moving to the center of AIDS epidemic. A growing number of young people aged 15-24 are HIV-positive. Young people below the age of 25 years constitute a significant percentage of the key populations at higher risk in South Asia. In Pakistan, the things are not exceptional; reportedly HIV prevalence among young people who inject drugs is over 23%. Adolescent girls suffer a great disadvantage of pervasive gender bias and harmful social norms such as early (often forced) marriage to much older men. Young girls are susceptible to many forms of abuse and exploitation and therefore are more vulnerable to infection through their spouses/partners, even though evidence suggests that boys engage in high-risk behaviours more than girls. Data suggest that a significant proportion of new HIV infections within key populations are among young people under the age of 25. In most settings, HIV prevention programs are failing to sufficiently reach young people most at risk. This situation persists even though the world has agreed that young people have the human right to education, information and services that could protect them from harm. Young people are disproportionately affected in the HIV pandemic. They face the economic and social impact of HIV on families, communities, and nations, and they must be at the Centre of prevention actions. Where young people are well informed of HIV risks and prevention strategies, they are changing their behaviour in ways that reduces their vulnerability.

Young people remain at the center of HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact and potential for change. They have grown up in a world changed by AIDS but may still lack comprehensive and correct knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection. Young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection for social, political, cultural, biological and economic reasons. On the other side of the coin, youth are the frontiers in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Where young people are well informed of HIV risks and prevention strategies, they are changing their behavior in ways that reduces their vulnerability. If we could raise awareness about HIV infections among the young people, they can save themselves and can be a valuable weapon to raise awareness among general people. And surely if we can awake the youth, we could make a giant step in preventing AIDS and providing a future leadership to the HIV community.

YKPS/YPLHIV IN PAKISTAN: Pakistan is experiencing a concentrated epidemic amongst key populations including people who inject drugs, sell sex, males who have sex with males, and transgender persons. As reported through the Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance (IBBS) in Pakistan, young people comprise a substantial portion of key populations, however, limited HIV prevention; treatment, care and support services are available to them. Pakistan has a large ‘youth bulge’ with 21.5 percent of the nation’s population between 15-24 years. The estimated HIV prevalence, among young key population, 15-24 year-old from 2005 to 2012, decreased in some countries in South Asia, while it has more than doubled in Pakistan. At the end of 2012, there were an estimated 2200 adolescents 15-19 years living with HIV, and 1100 new infections. Whereas by end 2014 there were approximately 12200 PLHIV in age group of 15-24 with 4252 new infections in 2014 alone. Pakistan is one of those four [4] countries where HIV epidemic is on increase and youth are not an exception to this, the number of YKP is estimated to be above 150,000 in same age group. A significant and increasing number of new infections within key populations are among young people aged 15-24. The Data from the Independent Commission on AIDS in Asia indicated that in the region, 95 per cent of all new infections in young people are among young key populations.

Although the vast majority of young people in Pakistan are at low risk of HIV infection, however a lack of structural support (e.g. education, social/legal protection, protection) can fuel HIV vulnerability and risk taking behaviours. Disparities in age, stage of development (biological, social, emotional), and legal status make young people more vulnerable to HIV infection than adults, and even more difficult to support once infected.

Young males who have sex with males and young hijra have additional vulnerabilities as they wrestle with their sexual identities in a culturally conservative society. Their risks are similar to adult key populations but compounded by disempowerment (physical and emotional), pressure to conform to socialized gender roles, low self-esteem and the desire to form intimate relationships to affirm self-worth – issues common to young people. As in other countries, in Pakistan risks are also compounded by stigma and discrimination. Punitive environments associated with homosexual sex, injection drug use and selling sex also hinder access to the few health or social services available youth, in Pakistan in general, and especially to Young key populations.

There are still insufficient and inadequate HIV programs for young people at higher risk or living with HIV in Pakistan. Access to early HIV diagnosis, stigma and discrimination, laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response are major challenges for the YPLHIVs in the country. The issues are multiplied when it comes to level of literacy, knowledge, awareness, employment and access to basic fundamental rights and needs. All this occurs in a context where donor funding for AIDS is declining, and national funding remains meager in most places. There is no scope of satisfaction about the low prevalence of HIV in the country. It is the duty of the governments and non-government organizations to commit themselves for a HIV-free future generation through the implementation of comprehensive, evidence-based prevention strategies, responsible sexual behavior, including the use of condoms, evidence and skill-based youth specific HIV education, mass media interventions and the provision of youth friendly health services.

Keeping this alarming situation on the APLHIV launched an initiative to focus on Young KPs and YPLHIV, in collaboration with Regional Youth Network. The project commenced in 2014 with following objectives: –

Primary Objective: To identify the needs of YPS/YPLHIV in Pakistan and subsequently enable them to engage themselves for their future leadership to make a successful response to the HIV in the country.

The needs were identified through a Nationwide Research Study involving 300 Young People from YKPs & YPLHIV from 14 Districts across the country. This is 1st ever study of its kind in Pakistan. The study was completed in August 2015 and the report was launched on 26th August 2015. To read the report click the Tab “Reports” on main page.

Secondary Objective: The primary objective would be followed by launching a Youth Chapter of the YPLHIV/YKPS within the setup of the APLHIV.

The APLHIV was successful in getting all the National Stakeholders on Board to launch the Y-Chapter. The 1st ever network for YKPs & YPLHIV was launched on 26th August 2015. The Y-Chapter envisions a platform/mechanism where the young people exercise their rights for healthy, dignified and respectful lives, and are leaders in addressing their issues tailored to their needs and rights. The Mission of the Y-Chapter reads out Mobilize young people from infected and affected communities and to develop skilled and empowered leaders for tomorrow.

The APLHIV is continuously engaged to not only sustain this network but also to capacitate the network and the Young KPs and YPLHIV. The youth leadership has been trained amicably on its meaningful engagement in GF processes, on Advocacy Skills, Proposal Writing, Organizational Management and Monitoring Skills. For More Details please click on Tab Y-Chapter on main page.