Peer educators take on HIV fight

Red Cross Peer Educators from John Gray High School recently took the fight against HIV and AIDS to another level.

First they took over the streets of downtown George Town, wearing Red Cross aprons and armed with pledge stickers, raising awareness of the day and asking people to support.

‘The idea behind the stickers was to get people to wear them in recognition and support for what today means,’ explained Programmes Manager Carolina Ferreira. ‘We are very grateful to all those who chose to make a donation as well, but we tried to make it clear that the main idea was to be aware and make the pledge: be it by learning a new fact, telling a friend, or even making a contribution to HIV and AIDS programming in Cayman. Whatever the means, the point was to make a commitment.’

The stickers contained the message ‘I pledge to take a stance against HIV, AIDS, and the stigma and discrimination which continues to fuel this pandemic.’

After leaving George Town, the students then made another stop: to their neighbours at Cayman Prep and High School.

All year 10 through 13 at Cayman Prep and High School attended a special programme in commemoration of World AIDS Day. They were split in eight groups and Peer Educators and Instructor Trainers from John Gray facilitated a sample awareness session full of games and activities, states a press release.

‘It was too short,’ exclaimed Mikhail McLaughlin, John Gray Peer Educator. ‘We needed more time!’

‘I had a great time,’ said Megan Thompson, also a Peer Educator from JGHS. ‘It was a little difficult at first, but I think by the end they were really engaged and were able to learn some facts.’

‘This is a first since the programme was launched in Cayman in 2003, and we are very grateful that the administration of Cayman Prep and High was so open to this idea,’ said Ms Ferreira.

‘Our youth have much to learn from one another, and you can see the camaraderie that exists among them. This is our greatest tool in this fight: the sharing of information, peer to peer. We have to make sure that we don’t neglect this tremendous resource,’ she stated.

The theme for World AIDS Day this year was Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise. It served as a reminder to government leaders, non governmental organizations, and other agencies involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS to not only keep fighting the fight, but to scale up their efforts and to keep the promises they have made not only to the world but also to their communities.

‘These students had the day off today as their school had a service day,’ explains Ms Ferreira. ‘Yet over 20 of them chose to assist us in our day’s activities. It was a tremendous effort on their part, and I hope that it inspires other youth as well as adults to step up and do their part in fighting the spread of HIV in Cayman.’

For more information, or to join the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Cayman Islands contact Ms Ferreira at 949-6785 ext. 27.

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