Background: Globally, half of all new HIV infections occur among youth under 25. As of June 30, 2002, more than 13,000 youth and young adults had tested positive for HIV in Canada. Despite this prevalence, there is a lack of resources for Canadian HIV-positive youth. Objective: To investigate what can be done to better support the needs of HIV-positive youth in Canada. Methods: A community-based participatory research approach was adopted. Thirty-four qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with youth (ages 12-24) living with HIV in Ontario. A stakeholder group of youth living with HIV, professionals and researchers collaboratively analyzed the data for emerging themes. Results: When asked about areas in their lives where youth needed support, three major themes emerged: 1) Personal feelings about HIV: Youth identified a wide range of emotional response to their HIV status; however feelings of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness were dominant. 2) Barriers to full participation in society: Youth described a number of social and structural barriers to their full participation in society. 3) Specific support needs: Youth had difficulty accessing appropriate support services; they had very mixed feeling about both youth- and AIDS-serving organizations. Interpretation: The youth we interviewed are interested in targeted programs, have difficulty accessing appropriate resources and would benefit greatly from increased social support. Specialized health and support services that are developmentally appropriate may be necessary. Where specialized services do exist, more research may be necessary to understand why they are underutilized and/or perceived as inappropriate. While this was a small exploratory study, our data suggest that better supporting the needs of HIV-positive youth might directly benefit this vulnerable population.

Community health services, HIV, Stigma, Support, Youth
Canadian Journal of Public Health

Flicker, S. (Sarah), Skinner, H. (Harvey), Read, S. (Stanley), Veinot, T. (Tiffany), McClelland, A, Saulnier, P. (Paul), & Goldberg, E. (Eudice). (2005). Falling through the cracks of the big cities: Who is meeting the needs of HIV-positive youth?. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(4), 308–312.