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An innovative course strengthens HIV programming and policy-making for young people in the Caribbean

© UNICEF TACRO/Jesús Carrasco

Kingston, October 24, 2011 - From 26 to 30 September, UNICEF implemented a course designed to provide guidance on youth-specific HIV programming and support staff working across the Caribbean region to meet the specific needs and rights of young people from key affected populations.

The course was originally developed for the Asia region by the University of Melbourne, UNICEF, and other key partners. It covers a broad range of topics including gender, rights, sexuality, drugs and evidence-based action. It also reviews current policy and programmes and looks critically at a range of interventions using a framework that focuses in the social drivers of the epidemic and not only risk and protective approaches.

Thirty two policy makers, UN and NGO staff from Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Suriname participated in the course. Each country assessed its current programming and policy making for young key affected populations and made a plan for strengthening the delivery of effective HIV prevention, care and support for those young people most in need in their respective settings.

Globally, in 2009, young people aged 15-24 accounted for 41% of all new infections among adults aged 15 and older. After sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean is the most affected region of the world. In the Caribbean, particular populations, including men who have sex with men—MSM—(Jamaican MSM have a 32% prevalence rate), individuals who sell, trade or purchase sex (Guyanese sex workers have a prevalence of 27%), and crack cocaine users (7% prevalence among drug users in St. Lucia) are at particular risk of HIV.  Many members of these groups are young.

Behaviors that put young people at risk of HIV infection include multiple unprotected sex partners, and unprotected anal sex. However the underlying determinants for HIV reveal a more complex picture and the illegality of behaviours and the stigma around HIV increases vulnerability and make it difficult to access young key affected populations.

Adolescents and young people particularly at risk for HIV are less likely to seek services and support than older populations at heightened risk. There have been increasing efforts made in recent years to expand prevention, treatment and care services to KAPs, but addressing the specific needs of young key affected populations—and overcoming their particular barriers to services—has remained a challenge.

Better understanding of the factors leading to low use of services can help policy makers and programmers better target interventions. UNICEF plans to further adapt and replicate the course for Latin American countries where HIV programming and policy-making for young people also needs strengthening.

For more information
Amy Weissman, aweissman@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Henry Armas, harmas@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org/lac


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