YVC Joins AIDS 2018

This year the International AIDS Society brought the conference back to Amsterdam for its 22nd year. “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges” was this year’s resounding theme calling for rights based and evidence-informed approaches to the global HIV movement.

Several Youth Voices Count members and secretariat also takes part in this global meeting this year, participating in various sessions in the plenary halls, global village, affiliate events and networking zones. Youth Voices Count, as a member of THE PACT, also worked to amplify the #UPROOT agenda that works to tackle the barriers, bigotry and exclusion that jeopardize young people’s health.

Several sessions that Youth Voices Count Members participated in were organized closely with other agency partners like UNAIDS, UNICEF, MPACT (formerly MSMGF), the Asia Pacific Networking Zone, PrEPster, among others.

YVC Members also took part in several of the pre-conferences prior to the main conference activities and were also selected as AIDS 2018 Youth Ambassadors.

Let us walk you through some of the highlights of our #AIDS2018 experience.

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#ShoutOutLoud: A Collection of Pride Month Stories

Pride Month Publication Cover

As we culminated the Pride Month, Youth Voices Count is releasing “#ShoutOutLoud”, a collection of stories from young LGBTQ+ people in Asia and the Pacific region focused on their perception of PRIDE.

The Pride Month remains to be a universally observed, recognized and celebrated season where parades, gatherings and protests are held everywhere. Whether a protest action or a grand festival, the celebration generates stories from individuals which needs to be heard and acknowledged.

However, there is one reality that is least discussed. Is Pride celebrated or how is Pride celebrated in countries where LGBTIQ identities are criminalized?

We believe that this publication will open a window for all readers to catch a glimpse of young LGBTQ+ peoples’ hopes for a better future. We hope that this would encourage all readers to strive to create a safe and welcoming world where young LGBTQ+ people can thrive.

We are Out! We are loud! We are Proud! As we count our voices together, we welcome everyone to shout out loud with us!

READ THE FULL PUBLICATION HERE: #ShoutOutLoud: A Collection of Pride Month Stories

YVC releases new discussion paper -“Young and High”

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05th June 2018, Bangkok – Youth Voices Count, today released a discussion paper titled,” Young and High” (link here “Young and High”), which explores the emerging reality of drug use by young gay, bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men in sexualized settings. The discussion paper brings data from three cities in the region including Bangkok, Ho Chi Min and Jakarta collected through an online survey and 9 key informant interviews.

Young people across the HIV response, irrespective of identities or behavior patterns have been left behind. Over 2000 young people are infected with HIV every day which accounts to over one third of all new HIV infections a day. HIV prevalence among those who are between 15 – 24 is on the increase in Asia and the Pacific region with countries such as China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar accounting to an HIV prevalence of over 5% among young key populations. Discussions on “high-fun” in many contexts is considered controversial as it relates to two “criminalized” activities; same sex sexual activities and drugs are criminalized in many countries in the region. Other related aspects of high fun including “increased” sexual pleasure, prolonged sexual activities, sex with multiple partners in a group or “orgys”, sexual adventure taking and etc. have also contributed to consider “high-fun” as a controversial topic.

The key findings of the discussion paper reveal that young gay, bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men are burdened by psychosocial issues, stigma and discrimination which contributes to initiate and maintain drug use. The need to be loved, to feel belonged and accepted and the psychological struggles in accepting sexualities feed in to this rising phenomenon. In addition, condoms are still perceived to be interrupting sexual pleasure and unfriendliness in HIV health services prevent them from accessing them. Further, young gay bisexual men and other young men who have sex men who use drugs in sexualized settings are seldom aware of available harm reduction services.

The discussion paper recommends that addressing mental health issues of young people in general and young LGBTIQ people in particular should be integrated in to the HIV response. Service providers need to be trained to identify mental health issues and provide referrals to appropriate services. Harm reduction services should be integrated in to HIV health services with particular attention to drug use in sexualized settings. Innovative prevention methods such as PrEP should be made available to all key populations with particular attention given to those who are most vulnerable among the key populations.

More information

Niluka Perera
Regional Coordinator
Youth Voices Count
Niluka.yvc@gmail.com

Justin Francis Bionat
Project Officer
Youth Voices Count
justin.yvc@gmail.com

The importance of Legal Gender Recognition in the HIV and AIDS Service Delivery – Philippines

The right to recognition before the law is enshrined in the Yogyakarta Principles as the most basic aspect of self-determination, dignity and freedom. Legal gender recognition for transgender women allows them to navigate freely in daily life while being allowed to identify with the gender that they identify with. This, unfortunately, is complicated in the vast majority of Asian countries with diverse legal systems and other pervasive religions and cultures. In the Philippines, there are no official options – a legal gender recognition law, policy or regulation – for transgender people in the Philippines to change name details on official documents.

One of the most notable legal challenges for transgender women in gaining legal recognition in the Philippines, is a landmark case in 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled against a transgender woman who had undergone gender-affirming surgery and wished to change her first name and gender marker on her birth certificate.
The identification documents of a person is required in daily activities and trans people face marginalization when they use identity verification documents that does not match their gender identity and expression. This extends to other challenges in accessing health and HIV services. Legal gender recognition should be a public health priority.
It is clearly visible in the February 2018 HIV/AIDS and ART Registry in the Philippines (HARP) that transgender women are lumped with the “men who have sex with men” (MSM) population in reporting the modes of transmission of key affected populations (KAPs). The cumulative data showing 25,704 cases of “male-male sex mode of transmission” since January 1984 include transgender women.

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While the HARP shows the MSM data to include transgender women, the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau – Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) has separated transgender women from MSM and considered them part of the “most-at-risk populations”. They have been doing this since 2013 because HIV has shown to highly burden transgender women globally. The IHBSS shows data of both gender identity and gender expression, individually.

With both the HARP and the IHBSS showing HIV prevalence among transgender women, service delivery and inclusive policies become necessary. High levels of social exclusion, gender-based violence, discrimination, and marginalization challenges transgender women from accessing services, damaging their health and wellbeing, and putting them at higher risk of HIV. For more specific cases transgender women facing criminal prosecution, incarceration with male inmates can also put them at risk of sexual assault. Transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than cisgender adults of reproductive age. In countries where transgender women who are excluded from national HIV surveillance systems, the risk of HIV infection increases because of exclusion from health services.

Legal gender recognition in the Philippines, and other countries in Asia, will eliminate the exclusion of transgender women in the HIV delivery network and registry, and lessen the disproportionate burden of structural barriers on transgender women in accessing services. The legalization of changes in the gender marker and legal name for transgender women would facilitate a wider reach of service provision and would promote inclusive health facilities.
As a key determinant, any law, policy, and practice, or lack thereof, which obstruct the self-determination of gender identity will threaten the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. As we move forward in our battle to end AIDS in the Philippines and in Asia, legal gender recognition will create inclusive communities that uphold each individual’s right to self-determination as we leave no one behind.

Justin Francis Bionat
Project Officer
Youth Voices Count

Youth Voices Count celebrates IDAHOT with #UnityForYouth Meme Campaign

This year’s International Day against Homophoba, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) has a global theme, “Alliances for Solidarity, inviting agencies, organizations, individuals and allies to take a collective stand to fight intolerable acts of discrimination, oppression, marginalization and exclusion of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community. The world today is in the forefront of battling systematic injustices against the LGBTIQ community and this IDAHOT, it is more crucial, than ever, to join hands and collectively stand for equality and acceptance.

Ha Bach

Youth Voices Count joins this year by starting an interactive meme campaign calling on our partners, members and allies to send in a message of solidarity for the LGBTIQ community, especially young people who are highly affected by these social inequalities.

Today, we share to you some of the powerful voices who stood up and accepted the commitment to stand for the youth. Working under our hashtag, #UnityForYouth, we are pleased to share with you these messages.

Amasai Jeke

“Click on this link to see the full album of memes from our Facebook page: “Click on this link to see the full album of memes from our Facebook page