Feature story


13 September 2017

Adolescents and young people aged between 16 and 19 years from several countries in eastern Europe and central Asia met in Aghveran, Armenia, from 26 to 29 August for the first Teenergizer strategic planning meeting. They discussed the challenges faced by adolescents living with HIV in their countries, shared the results of the #questHIVtest project and developed the #Teenergizer2020 strategic plan.

Teenergizer is a unique movement of 80 adolescents born to mothers living with HIV and HIV-negative volunteers from Georgia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. They are united by a set of common values, including support for engagement, tolerance and human rights.  

The issues addressed in the strategic plan include advocating for adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, the promotion of age-appropriate information on prevention for adolescents and engaging teenagers living with HIV to raise their voices in the HIV response.

In the #questHIVtest project, teams in Tbilisi in Georgia, Kiev and Poltava in Ukraine and Kazan and Saint Petersburg in the Russian Federation promoted easy, safe and youth-friendly HIV testing among adolescents.

Young people visited HIV testing sites and described the barriers to testing they faced. Using this information, they developed a map showing 63 HIV testing locations, accompanied by personal reviews on the HIV test experience, along with fun places nearby for young people to meet. As a result of the #questHIVtest, 1 925 adolescents from 5 cities have tested for HIV.

Max Saani, from Tbilisi, said, “It’s extremely helpful for teenagers to have a map on which adolescents can find youth-friendly testing locations and receive proper help and support.” “This map is very unusual, with fun teen places not even seen in Google Maps,” added Yana Valchuk, from Kiev.

Among the challenges and barriers faced by adolescents during the #questHIVtest were a lack of HIV information, stigma around HIV testing and talking about HIV with friends, the high cost of HIV tests and parental consent. The lack of anonymous HIV tests for young people and the shortage of trained doctors, social workers and psychologists to support adolescents living with HIV were also barriers.

Timur Khayarov, from Kazan, explained that the reasons why many adolescents in the Russian Federation are afraid to take an HIV test include the age limit—14 to take the test with parental consent, 16 without parental consent—and because the test results of minors must be communicated to their parents. “When I was refused an anonymous HIV test because of my age, I showed the personnel a printout of the law. The #questHIVtest helped me to defend my right to services,” he said.

The #questHIVtest project was undertaken with support from UNAIDS and the Viiv Healthcare Foundation.

“I’m convinced that the future is in the hands of adolescents—they are the people who will change and build a new world. By 2020, Teenergizer will be a few steps closer to the world that it seeks,” said Armen Agadjanov, an HIV activist from Yerevan, Armenia.