HIV And Young People Who Inject Drugs: A Technical Brief (Draft)

Inter-Agency Working Group On Key Populations
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This technical brief is one in a series addressing four young key populations. It is intended for policy-makers, donors, service-planners, service-providers and community-led organisations. This brief aims to catalyse and inform discussions about how best to provide services, programmes and support for young people who inject drugs. It offers a concise account of current knowledge concerning the HIV risk and vulnerability of young people who inject drugs; the barriers and constraints they face to appropriate services; examples of programmes that may work well in addressing their needs; and approaches and considerations for providing services that both draw upon and build the strengths, competencies and capacities of young people who inject drugs.

The brief identifies considerations for policy, research and funding as follows:

Supportive laws and policies

  • Apply a public-health and harm-reduction approach to drug use
  • Work for the decriminalisation of drug use
  • Change policing procedures so they do not allow confiscation of needles and syringes
  • for use as evidence of drug use for criminal charges
  • Work toward developing non-custodial alternatives to the incarceration of young people who use drugs sell sex or engage in same-sex activity
  • Prevent and address violence against young people who inject drugs
  • Examine current consent policies to consider removing age-related barriers and parent/guardian consent requirements that impede access to HIV and STI testing, treatment and care.
  • Address social norms and stigma around sexuality, gender identities and sexual orientation
  • Include relevant, rights-based HIV prevention and treatment programming specific to the needs of young people who inject drugs in national health plans and policy.

Strategic information and research, including:

  • Population size, demographics and epidemiology, with disaggregation of behavioural data and HIV, STI and viral hepatitis prevalence by age group and sex.
  • Research into health interventions and programmes for young people who inject drugs and the effectiveness of their delivery, especially services offered by sex worker-led organisations
  • Research into the structural factors that impact drug use and the impact of laws and policies upon access to health and other services for young people who sell sex
  • Involvement of young people who inject drugs, including those aged under 18 years, in research activities to ensure that they are appropriate, acceptable and relevant from the community’s perspective


  • Increase funding for research, implementation and scale-up of evidence-informed initiatives addressing young people who inject drugs.
  • Ensure that there is dedicated funding in national HIV plans for programmes with young people who inject drugs, and for programmes that address overlapping vulnerabilities.
  • Recognise overlapping vulnerabilities of key populations in funding and delivery of services.

You can download this 40 page document above. This resource is in English.