The essence of the project:
bridging the gaps in sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, prevention, treatment and support for young people from key populations (people who use drugs; LGBTI; sex workers).
In our work, we are faced with topics that remain sensitive and require urgent and careful consideration. For example, meaningfully engaging key populations of youth and adolescents and providing them with appropriate sexual and reproductive health (SRHR), HIV and harm reduction services is such a topic.
Young key populations face additional barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRHR), HIV and harm reduction services for a variety of reasons. Service providers face laws and regulations that prohibit them from providing services to young people; friendly services for young key populations are often lacking because service providers do not have sufficient knowledge of the specific needs of young key populations; young key populations are unaware of health risks and supportive networks and communities. Data on young key populations are limited as they are often underrepresented in biobehavioral research.
Epidemiological studies show that young people who use drugs, sell sexual services or identify as LGBTI are at higher risk of HIV infection. This is due to specific risk-taking behaviors as well as severe stigma, discrimination and violence. We also know that specialized services are needed to reach and engage young key populations.
Experience in implementing an international program Bridging the Gaps confirms the above findings and obstacles. In 2018, 30% of people who received services through Bridging the Gaps partners were under the age of 24. Various Bridging the Gaps partners have found that young people often do not identify with the generation that most prevention programs are targeting, and do not identify with members of key populations. They use methamphetamine and are therefore not as bad as "those old heroin addicts." They don't inject, so they don't fit the HIV risk profile. They sometimes exchange sex for goods or money, but do not consider themselves sex workers. In addition, young key populations are not always visible - not least because they prefer to go into hiding. They can (still) live with their family members. They find each other and meet online. They buy drugs online or over the phone. They arrange their "dates" over the Internet. Therefore, finding them using traditional methods of working with key populations is difficult. Many of these young people from key populations do not have access to traditional harm reduction or optimal HIV services. They remain hidden, protect themselves, and seek information and support among their peers and on the Internet.
Young people are among those who are more difficult to reach, even within the approaches taken for key populations. They have special needs and require an appropriate range of services and approaches to them. But not only that: in addition to repressive laws that criminalize key populations of all age groups, there are laws, regulations and social norms specific to young key populations that prevent them from accessing services. These are age restrictions, for example, for methadone programs. Or for HIV testing and other SRHR services and information. Minors may need permission from their parents for testing and even for sexual health information. This creates barriers because it forces young people to communicate this to their parents. Or service providers may find it difficult to provide services to young people who sell sex. However, the reality is that young people of all genders do engage in commercial sex and need SRHR services. This puts key populations and service providers' organizations in a difficult position. And, in truth, service delivery to key populations in Bridging the Gaps countries is already so sensitive that an organization may not want to take the risk of addressing young key populations.
What else can you learn from the young people with whom this program is working, and how can this knowledge be used to increase the demand for services and their relevance? What lessons can be learned from some of the best practices in Bridging the Gaps with youth? How can these practices be further disseminated and improve services for key youth groups through the Bridging the Gaps partnership? Now is the time to optimize services for young people and involve them in all elements of the work.
The proposed project has the following objectives:
1. Promote knowledge on how to best reach and involve young people from key key populations in sexual and reproductive health (SRHR), HIV prevention and harm reduction programs, and develop culturally and age-sensitive services;
2. Further dissemination and implementation of normative recommendations and best practices to reach and provide services to young representatives of key populations;
3. Promote networking among young people from key populations, providing opportunities to learn about their rights and advocate for the realization of these rights;
4. Increase the demand for services and the level of their use among young members of key populations by expanding the range of services provided specifically for young people and ensuring that “traditional” services are targeted at young people.
Increased demand for services among young people in key populations, and increased service coverage and better health outcomes related to HIV and SRHR.
This project is aimed at young people selling sexual services, drug users and young LGBTI people aged 18-24.
Phases of the project:
First stage: Research.
Second stage: Scaling-up.
Third stage: Inclusive Networking.
Fourth stage: Disseminating Knowledge.