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In China, UNICEF is supporting community-based organizations in reaching out directly to adolescent gay men via mobile dating apps and other tools to promote HIV counselling and testing.
For example, on World AIDS Day last year, we worked with UNAIDS and Chinese gay dating app Blue D to add a red ribbon next to every user’s profile picture.
But he later shifted to Growlr, a niche app for ‘bears’ – gay men who present a rugged, macho image. “Usually, if you go on Growlr, there will be around 50 guys available during the day, or 100 at night.
“These should include sex education in schools, condom distribution, and HIV testing and treatment services designed for adolescents.” In Thailand, for example, UNICEF has worked with the Government to reduce the age of consent for HIV tests to under 18, so that adolescents can access testing services without adult consent, which otherwise might act as a deterrent.
In addition, research on young at-risk communities has helped better understand behaviours that put adolescents at risk of HIV and to advocate for adolescent-specific strategies for HIV prevention.
Adolescents with HIV also face stigma and discrimination, which can discourage them from seeking treatment.
“In order to tackle this issue, governments need better data on adolescents, strategies for HIV prevention, and adolescent-specific laws and policies,” says Wing-Sie Cheng, Regional HIV and AIDS Adviser for UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific.
The ribbons link to information about HIV and details of the user’s nearest voluntary testing centre.