This case study was conducted by International Charitable Foundation “AIDS Foundation East-West” (AFEW-Ukraine), together with its partners New Family (located in Chernivtsi), Blago (Kharkiv), Return to Life (Kropyvnytskyi), and Public Health (Poltava). It focuses on adolescent drug users aged 10 to 19 years of age. Since 2011, partners have been providing direct services to young people who use drugs (PWUD) within the framework of the Bridging the Gaps programme. AFEW-Ukraine’s role is to provide technical support in piloting new approaches and interventions, build partner-capacity, and support experience sharing on a national level.

This case study illustrates how AFEW-Ukraine and its partners implemented a project to ensure the meaningful involvement and engagement of young PWUD. This demographic faces limited access to high quality and friendly HIV, SRHR, and harm reduction services. These include rapid testing on HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted diseases, counselling on sexual violence prevention, referrals to gynaecologists or other specialists, and the distribution of kits with condoms, pregnancy tests, gynaecological and hygiene items.

AFEW-Ukraine’s practical experience and the feedback they have received from clients and service providers, substantiates that young PWUD have limited access to these services due to a lack of information and understanding of their needs. Young PWUD are not always a visible population, and have minimal opportunities to speak up about their needs. Such service providers receive no special training, programmes or standards for working with young PWUD in Ukraine. Due to the country’s strict morality standards, drug use or sexual activity are often not addressed by health professionals or social workers. Practical experience also shows that young PWUD face a lot of barriers in accessing services, such as stigmatising attitudes or confidentiality violations.