Lost in transitions: current issues faced by adolescents living with HIV in Asia Pacific.

Lost in transitions: current issues faced by adolescents living with HIV in Asia Pacific.

In Asia Pacific, an estimated 230,000 children under 15 years of age were living with HIV in 2012, with approximately 25 percent of them receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). The paediatric HIV epidemic is entering the next phase of its evolution in the region, as children infected from birth enter adolescence and face new challenges. These adolescents living with HIV are now dealing with the complex social, economic, mental and developmental consequences of life-long HIV and ART.

This report aims to document and capture some of the experiences of adolescents living with HIV as they disclose their HIV status, deal with life-long ART, move from pediatric to adult health care services, navigate sexuality and relationships and build their independent lives. It also seeks to offer insights into some of the unique issues adolescents livingwith HIV face, such as pervasive stigma and discrimination.

The report offers a clear call to action for community organisations, networks of people living with HIV, youth organisations, policymakers, programmers, governments, donors and all interested parties working towards adolescent health and rights.

Recommendations include:

  • the need to invest in better data, better analysis of existing data, and more operational research, the creation of data systems to track perinatally infected children through adolescence and into adulthood; and data to help policymakers and programmers support those who have acquired HIV during adolescence
  • holistic, age-appropriate, confidential and non-judgemental health services for adolescents living with HIV, including  transition process for adolescents moving from paediatric to adult health care services; more peer support services to address treatment adherence and education, as well as mental health; sexual and reproductive health services  and harm reduction techniques for adolescents who use or inject drugs

  • work to give adolescents living with HIV the best possible treatment and related care, including better paediatric formulations from birth

  • ensure access to sexuality education that meets the needs of adolescents living with HIV and work to address the anxiety, fear and complex emotions some adolescents living with HIV face around sexuality and their reproductive options

  • help create a better social environment for adolescents living with HIV through: supporting the disclosure process at younger ages; more age appropriate livelihood opportunities for older adolescents living with HIV; safe housing for adolescents without families or stable living arrangements; and policies and programs to turn schools and education settings into safe spaces