Drug use and sexually transmitted illnesses
Lack of funding has put a brake on the impressive progress in this area made until 2010 in HIV prevention services for vulnerable groups, including young drug users, sex workersand men who have sex with men.
The latest UNICEF study covering most at risk adolescents found that drug use typically starts around 15-16. The younger the drug user, the more likely they are to be exposed to violence and sexual abuse, and the less likely they are to access health and social services. Though 80% of injecting drug users have Hepatitis C, the HIV prevalence is low at 1%. Access to medical and social services is made difficult by the law, which stipulates that children (defined as under-18s) must have consent from their parents – or the local authority if they are a looked-after child – for medical treatment, including detoxification, substitution therapy and treatment for STDs. Many young drug users live on the streets, which subjects them to further risks.
The main problem drugs are heroin and, as of last year, synthetic cannabinoids, new drugs with psychoactive effects, which are sold legally in so-called spice shops. Being new to the market, the products are not well regulated. While the law is changing to cover this typeof narcotic, producers often continually amend their ingredients slightly to get around substance bans and operate online to avoid coming under local jurisdiction.