Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Street talk: Youths and HIV/AIDS

The Millennium Development goal six, which is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, targets to have halted by 2015, and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. How can this be fully achieved if a great number of young people at risk are still being left alone to swim in the ocean of ignorance? There is a vital need for organizations to begin to recognize that the best and most effective way of reaching out to young people is to train some young people and empower them by providing adequate skills and resources necessary to reach their peers.
Since the HIV and AIDS epidemic began, over 60 million people have been infected with HIV and more than 20 million have died of AIDS. Despite wide-ranging interventions to curtail its further spread and to mitigate the impact of its effects, there are around 16 000 new infections each day and at the crux of the epidemic are young people, accounting for over 50% of this daily toll. That is why young people are and must be at the centre of action on HIV/AIDS1. Quoting The UN secretary-general Kofi Anan: Young people are the key to the fight against AIDS. By giving them the support they need, we can empower them to protect themselves against the virus. By giving them honest and straightforward information, we can break the circle of silence across all society. By creating effective campaigns for education and prevention, we can turn young people’s enthusiasm, drive and dreams for the future into powerful tools for tackling the epidemic.
Young People must make themselves available for capacity building opportunities that will enable them take positive action in mitigating the impact of HIV in their community. Today, several organizations like Journalists Against AIDS, a media resource centre on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria have set-up Youth Internship Programme to empower youths to take up the leading role in the fight against HIV and AIDS and commit themselves to engaging in activities that will contribute to the emergence of a HIV free youth population.
Young people are at greater risk when:
v Access to clear and non-judgmental information about sexually transmitted disease is difficult and restricted.
v Confidential HIV testing and counseling to find out if they are infected are unavailable or not adapted.
v They lack the power to refuse unwanted or unprotected sex, within and outside marriage
v Sexual orientation or behaviour is concealed as a result of social, cultural, religious or legal prohibitions
v Local communities reject people living with HIV and AIDS and as a result secrecy becomes the norm2

A-Z of HIV and AIDS for Young People

A: Avoid pre-marital/casual sex
B: Be faithful to your spouse
C: Consistent condom use with your partner
D: Don’t share Sharp Objects like razors, Clippers, Needles, and syringes etc.
E: Encourage and care for People Living with HIV and AIDS
F: Feasible HIV campaign ideas should be shared with the right people and not shun
G: Get tested and know your HIV status
H: HIV does not kill
I: Insist on sterilized clippers and other sharp objects if you must share
J: Just don’t ignore simple safety measures
K: Kick against stigmatizing people living with HIV (PLWH)
L: Learn how to live happily and stay alive even if you are HIV positive
M: Make HIV treatment available and affordable for PLWH by advocating for them
N: No knowledge is a waste; learn new facts about HIV today.
O: Operating an “I don’t care attitude” puts you at risk of being infected
P: Protect yourself and protect others by living responsibly.
Q: Question HIV issues and policy is you are in doubt
R: Remember HIV and AIDS are two different things
S: Sex education is a topic you must never shy away from
T: Talk to a trained and experienced counselor for more information about HIV
U: Underestimating your chances of contracting HIV with risk behaviour is risky
V: Verify your first HIV test result by taking another test
W: With media support, accurate information about HIV can be effectively disseminated
X: Xerox A-Z of HIV and AIDS to other young people
Y: Yes! We can have an emergence of a HIV free youth population if we work together
Z: Zipping up is still the most effective & reliable way of Protecting yourself from HIV.
In the fight against HIV and AIDS, Young people should not fold their hands and seat back to watch the future move on without them. They should get involve and self-develop themselves by keying into the numerous positive opportunities and wide range of information made available locally and internationally.

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