Tag Archives: youth

Anyone fancy a game of ‘Sex Roulette’?


A dangerous new trend, in which teenagers have unprotected orgies with people who are HIV Positive, is reportedly on the rise in Barcelona.

According to several reports in the Spanish media, the high-risk activity – more commonly known as ‘sex roulette’ – has been growing in popularity across the Catalan capital. Much like Russian roulette, the sex parties are aimed at people who want to add an element of danger to their carnal connections, by inviting (at least) one ‘secret’ HIV positive person to the group.

The trend, which is apparently practised by people of all sexualities, echoes the equally contentious ‘bugchasing’ movement; where gay men actively pursue the virus for sexual pleasure.

According to Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic – which is currently treating around 100 positive people a day – the rise of ‘sex roulette’ has also been linked to a spate of other sexually transmitted infections including hepatitis C, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. It has also been connected to the notable decline in the amount of young people who are concerned with catching HIV (stats reveal that 24 per cent of 15-25-year-olds are “not afraid” of the virus).

“Going to sex roulette parties is about the risk, partygoers think the higher the risk, the stronger the thrill” – Kate Morley

But why, despite all the obvious dangers, is this disturbing trend so appealing? “Going to sex roulette parties is about the risk, partygoers think the higher the risk, the stronger the thrill,” says psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle. “In the case of sex parties the intense high is as you combine orgasm with high adrenaline. However the high is short term and the long term consequences are dangerous as not only is there the risk of contracting HIV, but other harmful sexually transmitted infections.”

It’s not the first time the media has reported on the ‘sex roulette’ trend, either. Back in 2014, Lavanguardia newspaper raised concerns about the number of straight teenagers indulging in these kinds of “high-risk” orgies; adding that they believed the craze had come “from Colombia”.

“We’ve become victims of our own success when it comes to treatment,” explains AVERT’s news officer, Caitlin Maron. “HIV treatment is much more accessible and effective in this era, and people living with HIV are living healthier lives and into old age. As such, many people may feel that becoming infected with HIV isn’t such a ‘big deal’.”

“Whilst the outlook for people living with HIV is certainly positive, it is still a life-long chronic condition, with treatment needing to be taken every day,” she adds. “Living with HIV can still be a significant challenge for many.”

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A Child, growing up with HIV: Clinics with codenames and secrets from schoolfriends

For many years Daniel was told that he had bugs in his blood and needed tablets and regular blood tests to control them. At 11, his HIV diagnosis was revealed – and he was told to keep it a secret


One of Danny Germain’s most treasured memories is being 5 years old, cuddled up on the sofa with his mother Millie, watching a documentary about polar bears.  Millie Germain, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, passed away the next day.  She was HIV+ and died of AIDS-related complications.

Millie had met Danny’s father, Richard, when he was working in New York.  He fell in love with this bright, vibrant Latino girl, they were married, and soon after she found she was pregnant with their much-wanted first child.

It was during routine pregnancy blood tests that an anomaly was found and further investigations revealed that Millie had HIV. Richard tested negative. She had probably contracted it from a previous long-term boyfriend. It was 1992 and the medical world was still learning about the virus.

Millie and Danny as a child

Millie and Danny as a child

When Daniel was born there was a 1 in 6 chance he would also be HIV+ but his parents would not know that he had also contracted the virus until he was 18 months old. Millie, wracked with guilt for passing on the virus to her son, was becoming progressively weaker.  By this time the family were living back in Richard’s home town in rural Suffolk and the family struggled to manage the care needs of a feisty toddler with his mother’s deteriorating health – all the while keeping the truth behind Millie’s frequent hospitalisations a secret.

During the early nineties, the stigma around HIV/AIDS was as strong as ever, it was seen as a disease of promiscuity, drug use and the gay community. After Millie passed away Richard had to protect his little boy and carry the burden of keeping his diagnosis a secret.  Even the hospital clinic had a code name so that it could not be identified, and the doctors and nurses who chose to work there were considered exceptionally brave by their colleagues.

For many years Richard explained to Daniel that he had bugs in his blood and needed tablets and regular blood tests to control them. At the age of 11, he was told that these ‘bugs’ were in fact the HIV virus.  He was also told not to tell anyone.

In the intervening years Richard met Marion, who became a supportive stepmother to Danny.  Richard and Marion had two daughters, Danny’s sisters, and with the help of medical advances Danny’s daily cocktail of drugs reduced the virus in his bloodstream to undetectable levels.

From the moment he learned that he was HIV+, Danny wanted to tell others – but he knew he had to keep his status secret to protect himself from the prejudice that surrounded the disease.  For him the burden was not the disease itself – he was leading a full life, going to school, skiing, scuba diving, and blood tests and daily medication seemed minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things – but the stigma attached to it.

On graduating from university, Danny began a career as a freelance photographer and film maker, and had become frustrated at living with the secret any longer. He knew from all those clinics he attended as a child that there were lots of other young people like him who were also carrying with them a similar burden of secrecy.

And so, on the anniversary of his mother’s death, he publicly announced his HIV status in a film project titled 27.11.15. He visited aunts and cousins, university friends and extended family members and told them his secret in person. With his father and Marion at his side, he told his teenage sisters. Finally, he went back to speak to the doctors and nurses who had first treated him as a child, and the medical staff who had cared for his mother.

What is obvious in Danny’s story is the love, hope and indeed the normality possible after a diagnosis of HIV. Put simply, it is simply unacceptable that surrounding prejudices are now more of an issue to sufferers than the condition itself. In 2015, we have a responsibility to address this shocking truth.

Danny and Marion

Danny and Marion


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Teens Don’t Know HIV Is a Sexually Transmitted Disease

teenage silhouettes

A new study published by the MAC AIDS Fund shows a third of teens don’t know HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. Have the lessons of generations past been lost?

That’s the conclusion reading the results of a new survey put out by the MAC AIDS Fund (PDF). The online survey of about 1,000 teenagers was conducted this year by the communications firm Kelton, and does reveal some worrisome data about their attitudes and level of information about HIV and AIDS. Given its funding source, it makes sense that those facts would be the focus of the report. But taken as a whole, the results indicate that adolescents have a pretty good understanding of what choices are most likely to worsen their health over time.

The most startling and worrisome finding (helpfully highlighted by Vox) is that roughly a third of the respondents did not identify HIV as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If a true reflection of teenagers’ knowledge of how HIV is spread, that number is troubling indeed. A 2002 study of youth at an urban clinic found that, despite spotty knowledge about STIs as a whole, HIV was identified as such by 91 percent, a larger number than identified any of the others. While a difference in study populations may account for some of that discrepancy between the two surveys, a drop to 67 percent in the span of a dozen years would be a precipitous decline in informedness.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know how much credence to give those findings. Unlike studies that typically appear in peer-reviewed journals, there is little information provided by Kelton in the report regarding the survey methods. While it’s certainly possible that teenagers have become drastically less informed about HIV than they should be, it’s hard to put aside skepticism about how solid those numbers are without seeing how the survey was worded.

Taking the numbers at face value, the survey finds that 88 percent of teenagers don’t perceive themselves to be at risk for lifetime HIV infection. In contrast, they are concerned about the risks of developing cancer (38 percent), diabetes (33 percent), heart disease (28 percent) and obesity (22 percent). Comparing the prevalence of HIV infection to mortality and obesity rates in the United States, those attitudes are actually pretty sensible. While 50,000 new HIV infections a year are far too many, on balance adolescents are at far more risk of developing those other health problems.

The survey reports that less than a third of respondents rated having unprotected sex as the most risky health behavior they could be engaging in. However, that’s still more than those who rated smoking or drinking (28 percent) or eating unhealthy foods (20 percent) as the riskiest. Without seeing the study’s methods, it’s impossible to know what those numbers really mean. Were respondents only given one choice or asked to rank several? Just because a teenager thinks drinking is the most risky thing she could be doing (which, given the effects of drinking on mortality, isn’t a crazy answer) doesn’t mean she perceives unprotected sex as being risk-free.

For an organization like the MAC AIDS Fund, it makes sense to look at the survey results and respond with alarm. Its focus is on HIV and AIDS, and the report certainly indicates that there is work to be done in communicating to youth about preventing infection. But when viewed as part of a bigger picture, it shows that teenagers have a good idea of what their long-term health risks truly are. Coupled with data showing decreased risk behavior among adolescents as compared to older generations, it’s actually rather encouraging.

What is truly discouraging are the numbers regarding new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), the group comprising the largest number of new diagnoses by far. Among MSM aged 13-24 years rates of new infections have actually risen over the past decade, while the overall rate of new diagnoses has dropped by 30 percent.  While medications like Truvada can be used to lower the risk of infection for those engaged in high-risk behaviors, that doesn’t mean attention to lowering those risks isn’t important.

Though reading of the report is that most teens have a good idea about the health risks they actually face, it remains important to inform adolescents about their risk of infection with HIV. The survey report contains no information about the respondents’ demographics beyond their ages, so it’s impossible to know how many fall into higher-risk groups. For those who do, giving them the information they need to lower that risk remains just as important as ever.

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Boys who like boys: A survey of understanding about sex


HIV diagnoses among young gay and bisexual men have more than doubled in the past 10 years and rates of HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men remain constant, with no evidence of decline. (Get the data)

We know that there is now more opportunity for gay and bisexual men to meet sexual partners and form relationships; however this is not being matched with increased provision of information and support around relationships, safer sex, HIV and their general health and well-being.

Much more can be done to better meet the health and wellbeing needs of young gay and bisexual men to help reduce HIV transmission and to improve their general health and well being irrespective of HIV. Part of this is responding specifically to support and information related need. For example, research also shows that sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools is often inaccessible and not relevant to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people, which threatens to undermine this group’s right to education.

In addition, where young gay and bisexual men might conventionally learn about safer sex, relationships and HIV, such as educational settings, they can experience marginalisation and homophobic prejudice.  (See the School Report, Stonewall 2012)

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) have designed a survey looking at where and how young gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM)  source information, advice or support about sexuality, sex and relationships, safer sex, and HIV; whether they think these sources are helpful; and what types of additional information and support they would like more of. The survey will also assess respondents knowledge around HIV, safer sex and human rights, and reported sexual behaviour. The survey is targeted at young gay and bisexual men aged 14 – 19.

Access the survey (and enter for a chance to win a £75 voucher) by clicking this link.

Take our survey of understanding about sex


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Young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People face discrimination and negativity

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new poll commissioned by METRO suggests that despite huge strides towards equality in recent times, young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are still not able to be completely open about their sexuality and identity without fear of negative reactions and 65% of the population have witnessed or are aware of discrimination and abuse of LGBT people.

The same poll also shows that whilst awareness of discrimination against LGBT people is high, 72% of the population support the need for more and improved services for young LGBT people.

The poll of over 1,000 people of all ages across Great Britain conducted by Populus finds that:

  • 76% of people believe that young LGBT people experience negative reactions when they are open about their identity at school
  • The same proportion (76%) believe that young LGBT people experience negative reactions in the street when they are open about their identity and worryingly this figure rises to 84% of 18-24 year olds
  • 66% believe that young LGBT people experience negative reactions when they are open about their identity at work
  • Nearly 60% believe that young LGBT people experience negative reactions from their parents when they are open about their identity

These findings are perhaps not surprising when set alongside other findings from the poll about discrimination and abuse of LGBT people with one in 10 people being aware of or having witnessed physical abuse of LGBT people and a third having witnessed or been aware of verbal abuse of LGBT people – rising to half of all 18-24 year olds.  The poll also confirms that the use of the term ‘gay’ in the negative is widespread.

The findings come as a national survey of 15,000 young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) 16-25 year olds is launched . The National Youth Chances survey is seeking the views of young LGBTQ people across England and will use the data to identify their needs and to make recommendations for change. National Youth Chances is the biggest ever social research and influencing project of its kind, aiming to find out direct from young people about their experiences of education, employment, health, community and relationships.   Youth Chances is also engaging service providers, service commissioners, policymakers to make a commitment to make improvements for LGBTQ young people.

Dr Greg Ussher, Deputy CEO of Metro said:

Metro’s expertise in working with young LGBTQ people over nearly 30 years was the catalyst for National Youth Chances. There have been major steps forward in LGBT  equality and in understanding the needs of young people, but as the findings of this poll show we still have a long way to go to eliminating discrimination and ensuring that sexuality and gender identity are not barriers to young people’s happiness and wellbeing.  The findings are perhaps not so surprising when we consider the questioning of equality in current debates about equal marriage, which must be bewildering for most young people. Youth Chances offers us an opportunity to turn things around and make a real difference.

Dan Baker, Youth Chances Project Manager said:

These findings really demonstrate the importance of National Youth Chances and the need for us to understand directly from young people themselves about the challenges they face. It saddens me that when young people need the most support and understanding, they still face discrimination and fear because of who they are.  I want to encourage as many young people as possible to take part in the Youth Chances online survey so that their experiences can be counted.  There is clear support in the general population for more and better support for young LGBT people and I am committed to ensuring that Youth Chances results in recommendations for change and a real difference to young people’s lives

Via: Metro Centre On-line 

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Vote for Pozitude! The Website by Children Living With HIV

There are lots of websites out there which can give you help, advice and knowledge about HIV, and Pozitude stands out from the crowd.. read on to hear all about it and what YOU can do help them win an award for harnessing technology to bring about positive social change.

Pozitude is a website set up by a group of children who are living with HIV and they offer more than a simple website.  They offer a special place where the clock stops and you can navigate your way without running out of time.  Young people and parents alike can use this space as a good place to find out about HIV and what it’s like to live with HIV.

Some people still don’t have access to clear, easy to understand information about HIV so Pozitude decided to put together all sorts of information.

Sponsored by The Big Lottery, they asked for help from doctors, nurses, and other people who know about HIV and they hope that you will suggest anything that you might think would help a young person finding out they are HIV positive.

Visit whenever you like, learn about the facts, the fantasies, the realities and the myths about living with HIV. Ask questions and share ideas, come and find friends, but most important keep a positive attitude about your journey ahead.

Michelle Overton is a project manager at Pozitude, and she’s been nominated for Talk Talk’s Digital Heroes Award.  Babita Wakelin, who nominated Michelle  said, “Michelle is inspirational, but the kids using Pozitude are also truly Digital Heroes!” Pozitude says that the grant would enable it to update its websites and digital offerings as well as to develop a Facebook application that will help reduce the stigma associated with HIV.

Pozitude would also like to develop a smartphone application that will help young people who have moved away from home remember to take their medication at their set times.

The TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards is an awards and funding scheme with a difference: it is the UK’s only scheme which recognises people who harness digital technology to bring about positive social change in their communities.

The TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards, with Citizens Online and in association with The Mirror – and supported by Race Online 2012 – offers people a chance to win funding for a new or existing digital project.

If Pozitude wins the Digital Heroes competition, they can win a prize of £5,000 and if they win the East Midlands regional contest, they will be entered into a national final and could win £10,000 so what are you waiting for?

They answer questions such as “Is HIV The Same As AIDS“? “Who to Tell“? along with practical information like healthy eating (with recipes) and issues such as employment and faith.

They even have a section for parents and professionals which offer help and support for talking to children about HIV and the impacts it can have on life.

Leicestershire AIDS Support Services are voting for them, and we hope you do too! So visit Talk Talk’s Digital Hereo’s website and vote for Michelle Overton

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Young People Key to Reversing the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

A report by The Global Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) titled ‘Securing the Future’ on HIV and Young People  has stated that global commitments to HIV eradication will only be achieved if the needs of the young people are recognized and if their human rights are met and protected. The IATT report stresses that young people are a key resource in reversing the AIDS epidemic. They note that the legal and policy barriers that prevent young people from accessing HIV services must first be addressed in order for young people to become more effectively engaged in the response.

The youth-led response has been effective, as data from UNAIDS shows that young people are leading the “HIV prevention revolution”,  taking more action to protect themselves and changing their sexual behaviours in order to avoid contracting the disease. As a result, in 15 out of the 21 countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS, the HIV prevalence among young people is dropping.

This trend is overwhelmingly positive considering that in 2009 young people accounted for 41% of all new infections, with 3000 new infections every day. In 2009, in total, there were 4.9 million youths living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. These statistics illustrate the urgent need to tailor HIV prevention and treatment programmes in order to reduce infections worldwide.

A side event to the United Nations meeting on youth in New York, (under the theme of “Youth: Dialogue and mutual understanding”) allowed many young people to have direct conversations with policy-makers to encourage an increase in HIV prevention and treatment services for young people, as well as to encourage more active involvement and leadership of young people in the AIDS response. At this event several agencies collaborated (including UNFPA, ILO, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Population Council and Catholic Relief Services and UNAIDS) alongside the young leaders and governments, to look for solutions to reach their shared mission of “Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths” among young people.

The report also acknowledges that simply directing more resources towards the youth population will not necessarily increase HIV testing and uptake of services. Instead, it argues that there is a need to empower young people, especially young women, to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights. By doing so, the “HIV prevention revolution” can continue with vigour. The report also agues that there is a need to improve programmes for young people and to repeal national laws and policies that restrict access to HIV services. It is therefore, once again, not only an issue of lack of treatments or even lack of young people’s adherence to the treatments and preventing illness, but rather an issue of lack of political will to address the laws and policies that restrict access to services.

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