Improved voluntary HIV testing and counselling services for young people in Georgia
Georgia marks United Nations Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with launching of a new initiative on improved HIV prevention, treatment, and care services
TBILISI, Georgia, 26 June 2012 – Confidential, anonymous, and free HIV testing and counselling services will now be available to the most-at-risk adolescents and young people thanks to a new initiative being launched today by the Public Union Bemoni and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the conference “Be Modern – Take Care about your Health!” supported by the UNICEF, EU and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The three-year project “Capacity Building of Non-state Actors in Relation to HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care for the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Countries” is financed by the European Union.
The launch of the initiative falls on United Nations Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking marked on June 26 each year to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to individuals and society in general. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, every year an estimated 210 million people use illicit drugs with almost 200,000 of them dying annually. Drug use and drug trafficking are not only a health threat, but also threaten global stability and socio-economic development across the world.
“Recent studies show that almost two-thirds of Georgia's estimated 40,000 injecting drug users began using drugs as teenagers,” said Mr. Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “Injecting drug users are one of the major risk groups for HIV transmission. Considerable progress has been made in coordinating the national response to HIV/AIDS since the establishment of the Country Coordinating Mechanism under the leadership of the First Lady. The priority should now be given to scaling up of specific programmes to prevent young people embarking on substance abuse and other high-risk behaviour. Adolescent boys and girls and young people are is the most vulnerable population group due to lack of access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and counselling services and stigma that exist with regard to people living with HIV/AIDS.”
This programme will identify five civil society organizations and support them in providing quality services to young people. As a result, youth-friendly confidential testing and counselling interventions targeting 10,000 most-at risk adolescent boys and girls will be set up and linked to broader prevention, treatment and care services. The initiative will also work at a policy level and based on the field experience will aim to effectively influence policy and legislation. Coordination and networking with the Government institutions and other actors to further facilitate the exchange of ideas, best-practices, and lessons learned will be another dimension of the programme.
Within the framework of the project it is also planned to train 60 youth peer outreach workers whose task will be to generate demand as well as attract young people for confidential HIV testing and counselling services. The programme expects 3,600 most-at risk adolescents to be tested on HIV and get counselling which will enable them to make informed choices and decisions regarding drug use and sexual relations.
Georgia belongs to the small number of countries where the HIV epidemic is rising. The registered number of new cases in Georgia has increased more than 10-fold over the last decade. The HIV epidemic is largely concentrated among males (75 per cent of cases) and high-risk groups. As in most of the Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States region, injecting drug use is the major transmission mode, representing 54.6 per cent of all cases with a known transmission route. On average, 45 per cent of HIV cases each year are detected late, with AIDS already clinically manifested.
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