How Do We Support Youth Living With HIV?
In Ontario, as in the rest Canada, the story of HIV highlights existing fractures and inequalities. Although it’s been almost four decades since the first cases of what would become known as HIV were diagnosed, the illness continues to be an issue of concern. The impact of HIV is felt across race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and age.
In Ontario, HIV hits some communities harder than others. Men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and racialized populations continue to be disproportionately affected. In 2016, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated that approximately 63,110 people were living with HIV across the country. Of the 2,165 people newly diagnosed with HIV in that year, 574 were youth between the ages of 15-29. The data also showed that between 2012 to 2016, the number of new HIV diagnoses among youth increased by 13%.
Paying attention to the ongoing impact of HIV on youth in Ontario, YouthREX developed the Research to Practice Report Supporting Youth Living With and Affected by HIV in Ontario. The report speaks to service providers working with young people living with and affected by HIV in Ontario. It offers recommendations for best practices at the individual, interpersonal, organizational, and community levels.
At its core the report understands that the way HIV impacts young people is also determined by social, economic, and political circumstances. Young people who are already underserved and marginalized may have a harder time coping with HIV. The report uses a critical lens to explore systematic factors that create barriers to support for young people living with HIV. It also looks at gaps that currently exist in services. Using transformative approaches – such as anti-oppression frameworks - it gives youth workers well-rounded strategies to support the young people they work with.
Youth workers are uniquely posed to support young people living with HIV in Ontario. They are resource navigators with close links to young people. By implementing recommendations made in the report, service providers are better able to meet the needs of young people in meaningful and impactful ways.