Objective: This study of youth in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan identifies factors that render them vulnerable to drug use. It explores youth’s definitions of and attitudes toward drug use and examines how substances other than heroin and opiates influence higher risk behaviors, especially injecting drug use. Findings from this study are used to identify strategies for PSI’s youth programs in Central Asia that discourage youth from adopting opiate use and injecting drug use: behaviors that increase their risk for HIV infection.
Methods: Twenty-six focus groups and six in-depth interviews were conducted for this study. Focus groups were conducted with in-school youth aged 13 to 18 living in program target areas in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and in Tashkent, Andijan, and Karasu, Uzbekistan. Interviews with youth aged 16 to 18 who reported recreational drug use were conducted in three of the four target areas.
Results: Several factors influence risk-taking behaviors among Tajik and Uzbek youth, including drug use. Youth’s level of knowledge about drugs is relatively high, but most fail to make the connection between heroin use, injecting, and risk for HIV/AIDS. Youth demonstrate a tolerance for certain types of substance use—particularly alcohol, tobacco, and, to some extent, marijuana—but are vocal about their disapproval of heroin use, often criminalizing users and describing them as social failures. Addiction is usually attributed to an individual’s lack of willpower or moral shortcomings. Risk perception for heroin use is low and youth attribute use to several factors, including peer pressure, curiosity, boredom, poverty, and interpersonal problems.
- Populations Served
- Adolescents and Youth, Men at High Risk for HIV, People Who Inject Drugs, Women at High Risk for HIV
- Health Areas
- HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Communicating for Social Change, Marketing Products and Services
- Resource Types
- Peer-Reviewed Publications
- Central Asia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
- HIV Prevention