Every first week of December the media floods the public with information about the HIV and AIDS pandemics in an effort to raise awareness of World AIDS Day and how much is being done and needs to be done in the global fight against the spread of the disease worldwide.
It is getting to the point where most are well aware of the Caribbean’s status as having the second highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world after Sub-Sahara, yet very little is known about the work that is being throughout the year in our very community by incredibly dedicated and passionate young leaders.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross joined the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS in 2003 with the implementation of its Together We Can Peer Education Programme.
Young people ages 14-17 who are leaders in their own peer groups and who have an interest in learning and passing on knowledge undergo an intensive three day training where they are given basic information about HIV and AIDS, how it is spread, and how to prevent it, as well as negotiation, communication and safer sex skills. These young people are empowered with the truth about HIV and AIDS and tasked with the responsibility of passing that knowledge on to their peers.
Since 2003 over 150 young persons have been trained and over 1,300 peers have been formally reached as the programme is a part of the JGHS Life Skills Curriculum. One can only imagine how many others have heard its message in casual conversation.
The Red Cross’ HIV programme has grown tremendously since 2003 and has included a number of campaigns; the latest one, the ‘HIV+…until proven negative. Get tested’ campaign, started off as a T-shirt message, which has now been captured as posters featuring the peer educators of the TWC programme.
The campaign, which was done with the help of photographer Chuck Bishop was formally launched at a reception at the Governor’s house, where the Peer Educators/models were invited along with their parents to see the final product of the campaign.
‘It is truly amazing and inspiring to see how these young people have stepped up and dedicated themselves to a cause that so many adults refuse to acknowledge,’ states Programmes Manager Carolina Ferreira. ‘While we will continue to try and engage the adult population via the parents, teachers, and private and public sector employee sensitization it has become very clear that our hope and our strength lies in the dedication of these young people. HIV transmission is not only a question of lack of knowledge and information; it is also about a lack of empowerment. What better way to combat that problem than to use the voice of the youth themselves?’ she adds.
To get involved, find out about training, or schedule an awareness session for your workplace or youth group please contact Carolina Ferreira at 949-6785 ext. 27 or 916-1742 or [email protected].
Stay tuned to the Compass throughout the month of May as we will be bringing you more information about the C.I. Red Cross, its community programmes, and other activities happening this month.