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Innovations, lessons learned and good practices

Ukraine 'Personal connections to peers and outreach workers bring young sex workers into HIV services' (Lessons learned)

Year: 2009
Major Area: HIV and AIDS and Children
Language: English

Young women who sell sex or live on the street in Ukraine do not benefit from state health or social services, despite alarmingly high rates of HIV. Their situation is especially precarious. How do they relate to a system that rejects and blames them? International and national partners researched the plight of these young people in Ukraine, brought this data to planning councils, and subsequently pilot-tested a combined drop-in center/outreach model to bring reproductive health, HIV prevention, social welfare, and harm reduction services to them. They also advocated for a more protective legal and policy environment for this population. Through the pre-testing of the model, 117 adolescent females who had never benefited from HIV prevention services before received services between February and December of 2009. The National AIDS Programme and the State Social Services now recognize female adolescents who sell sex as an essential constituency for services. The new national AIDS law now allows adolescents aged between 14 and 18 years to have HIV testing at local AIDS centers without parental consent. One key lesson was that trust and good communication between caseworkers and young people are critical in dispelling young peoples’ mistrust of the health and social services system. Formal cooperation agreements with NGOs, the government and academic institutions guaranteed access to the various government health and social welfare services. The programme will be replicated in two more sites. Advocacy for a less punitive legislative and policy environment for young people who inject drugs, sell sex and/or live on the streets will continue.

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