#WeMatterToo: Telling the Stories of Jamaica's Young and Vulnerable
Adolescents and young people remain a particularly vulnerable group in Jamaica. Adolescent girls aged 10-19 are almost three times more likely to become infected with HIV than boys of the same age. This higher susceptibility is a result of several factors, including early sexual initiation, young girls having sexual relations with HIV-infected older men, high rates of forced sex and prevalent unsafe sexual practices among adolescents.
A 2008 survey of sex workers conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) found that 4% of female sex workers were infected. Most alarming is the 32% HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM), which is a major driver of the HIV epidemic in Jamaica. Several issues are behind this vulnerability, including poverty, stigma and discrimination and estrangement from families mainly due to homophobia.
The glaring absence of adolescent and youth-friendly services that meet the specific needs of key affected populations has driven many of these populations underground, complicating their vulnerability and making it even more difficult to lower infection rates.
Adolescents and young people who are already in challenging circumstances are too often met with discrimination and mistreatment when they seek services. This compromises their access to critical information and services – widening the gap between the needs of highly vulnerable adolescents and young people and the services available to them. They remain difficult to reach in the efforts to curb the spread of HIV.
During Child Month, UNICEF Jamaica will focus attention on some of these vulnerable populations, through the #WeMatterToo series. Each week, we will profile the experiences of adolescents and young people in particularly challenging situations, including victims of sexual violence, commercial sex workers and wards of the state.
To become involved, follow us on Twitter: @UNICEF_Jamaica and join the discussion using the #WeMatterToo hashtag. You can also share the material which will be published each week on Facebook and our website: http://www.unicef.org/jamaica/