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.
Youth Voices Count