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The diversity within the community of young people living with HIV means there are a range of different needs that must be met.
It is too easy for governments and NGOs to respond to the needs of PLHIV – thinking that they are also addressing YPLHIV needs. The experiences of YPLHIV are unique to their age and stages of development. The desires and dreams of a young person living with HIV will differ according to their age, their social and economic background, their sexuality, their religion, their gender and so many other factors. The HIV sector needs to recognize this broad range of factors and respond accordingly. For example, In Nepal, majority of young people contracted with HIV are drug users and it is due to the needle sharing. In developed Asia countries like Singapore, young people contracted HIV are usually due to unprotected sex. Therefore, can we adopt the same approaches to address the needs of YPLHIV in Singapore the same as YPLHIV in Nepal? I really doubt it.
I would like to share a recent personal experience. In 16th Dec 2010, a friend of mine went into a sudden coma and passed away 2 days later, it was a shock to everyone. Later, I was told by his mother that the doctor told her he had died from AIDS-related complications and had been living with HIV for more than 4 years. He did not tell anyone about his status and he was in denial for 4 years perhaps because of the traditional cultural values that he was brought up with. This belief and other influences around him had prevented him from sharing his status with anyone as I think he might face with rejection and discrimination and most importantly bring shame to his family. He was just 28 years old. I ask myself would this have been any different had we been more aware and open to the differences in the community and more proactive in fighting the stigma and discrimination that pervades society.
I strongly believe that understanding the different needs in the different countries in a young people perspective will definitely help many YPLHIV to face their status better and most importantly to promote a positive and healthy outlook for the young people community.
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This article was written by Shawn Lee, from Singapore, a member of the Global Network of People Living with HIV, Y+ Advisory Group