Young People are More than Infectious Diseases

 20 April 2015, Bangkok, Thailand – Today Youth Voices Count, a network of young men who have sex with men (MSM) and young transgender people in Asia and the Pacific, released its latest discussion paper titled Jumping Hurdles.  This discussion paper reflects on the barriers young MSM and young transgender people face when trying to access HIV health services.

This is the result of our extensive consultation with 26 young MSM and young transgender people from 14 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific.

“At the clinic, the public health inspector laughed at me because of my appearance before sending me to the doctor, who then insulted me for trying to become a woman and having sex with men,” said our transgender member from Sri Lanka. “I was very disappointed with their treatment and regretted that I had come, telling myself that would be the last time.”

Sadly having HIV or being even thought to being HIV positive is still a basis for discrimination in many countries. If you identify as gay, bisexual or transgender and also young that discrimination is doubled.

Our Jumping Hurdles categorizes the major barriers young MSM and young transgender people face in accessing health services in three key areas: availability of information, environment, and counseling.

We want healthcare providers to be friendlier towards young MSM and young transgender people. We want their staff to receive training on gender and sexuality. We want the waiting and consultation rooms to showcase symbols that would make us feel more comfortable.  Something as simple as having a rainbow flag or a pink triangle will help us to feel welcome.

“Being young and sexually marginalized puts MSM and transgender youth at much higher risks for HIV,” said Dr. Nittaya Phanuphak, Director of Thai Red Cross. “Healthcare providers need to tailor their services to the needs of these young people to increase their sexual health services uptake, which plays a big role in driving down new infections.”

We recommend policymakers to remove the need for parental consent when we access HIV services, decriminalize consensual sex between men and diverse gender expressions, and outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality, among others.

We recommend programmers to ensure a holistic and inclusive health package for young MSM, young transgender people, and for those living with HIV.  This should include a sex positive approach to HIV prevention programs, including teaching techniques to enhance pleasure while using condoms and practices to minimize the risk of HIV transmission.

Youth Voices Count (YVC) is a youth initiative led by young men who have sex with men and transgender women. We bring together the most vibrant, diverse, and young community leaders in Asia and the Pacific, supported by Hivos and APCOM.

Media contact:

Niluka Perera

Project Officer

Youth Voices Count