HIV Prevention Program for Youth
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Today, young people (15-24) account for 40 per cent of all new adult HIV infections. Each day, more than 2400 young people become infected with HIV—and some five million young people are living with HIV. Young people are a fulcrum. They remain at the center of the epidemic and they have the power, through their leadership, to definitively change the course of the AIDS epidemic. Experience over the past decade has demonstrated how to address HIV among young people. In countries with concentrated epidemics, programs and resources must focus on adolescents and youth who engage in risky behaviors, including injecting drugs, selling sex and men who have sex with men. In countries with generalized epidemics, where the general population is at risk, all vulnerable young people, particularly young women, need to be targeted priority in policy and program design. Evidence shows that sex education helps in reducing the risk of HIV by delaying the onset of sexual activity and encouraging safer sexual behavior.
The majority of young people who are acquiring HIV are those who inject drugs, very few of whom have access to evidence-informed HIV prevention and treatment services. Achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for all, including young people.
Accurate and comprehensive knowledge about HIV is still low among young people and investment in education is needed. Delayed onset of sexual activity and increased use of condoms have contributed to a decrease in HIV incidence among young people in most of the countries. Out of 45 countries with survey-based trend data, 17 are starting to show a steady increase in HIV prevention knowledge among young women. Several high prevalence countries are also showing stabilization of their HIV epidemic with notable behavioral changes among young people in terms of age at onset of sex, multiple partners, and condom use. Many challenges still persist in translating lessons learned into practice.
Young people still need more opportunities for meaningful engagement in advocacy and decision making.
We plan to run an effective prevention campaign. The aims of any prevention campaign should be to reduce the infection rate. Here are the key things that should be done:
· Educating everyone to understand how HIV and AIDS is spread and what we can do to protect ourselves. We must encourage our youth to change sexual behavior.
· Promoting openness so we can break down the stigma and silence surrounding HIV and AIDS.
· Making everyone aware of the plight of people living with AIDS and the problems faced by their families, and mobilizing communities to help care for people who are affected.
· Encouraging testing for all people who are sexually active and making sure there is proper counselling that goes with the testing.
· Ensuring people understand their rights and the treatment options once they have been diagnosed.
Public education and awareness programs are most effective when we plan and prepare well and have the following:
· A clear target group that we want to reach and a good understanding of the target group’s culture, language and attitudes
· The right slogans and messages to really influence and change the target group
· The right methods to reach our target group
· The people and resources to implement the programs
HIV/AIDS PREVENTION ACTIVITIES FOR YOUTH
A workshop can be a few hours long and is a good way to educate people. Workshops give people a chance to discuss issues in more detail. Try to make the workshop exciting and participatory – no one wants to sit and listen to a long lecture. (See workshop outline). Workshops are more difficult to handle and your trainers or facilitators should be trained to run them. Always send inexperienced people with experienced people until they build confidence.
B. Plays, songs and music
Culture can be a very effective way of getting your message across to people who do not want to sit in meetings or workshops. Involve local cultural groups in developing education programs. We will also organize cultural or talent competitions for schools and youth groups.
C. Community meetings
Use meetings of interested people from your community or from a specific target group, where people come together to discuss HIV and AIDS or a specific issue related to HIV and AIDS. Try to involve sympathetic community leaders like politicians, councilors, religious leaders and health workers. For example, ward councilors can call ward meetings and church leaders can organize an interfaith event. Meetings work best if people have a chance to give their views, ask questions and discuss problems and solutions. The leaders should be there to listen and to give some information and direction. Speakers should make only a very short introductory speech that covers the main issues/problems and then ask the participants to give their experiences and their views about what should be done. Leaders can sum up the way forward at the end of a forum.
Pamphlets are a good way of spreading information about HIV and AIDS and services offered by organizations. The Department of Health has many simple pamphlets you can use. If you write your own, keep pamphlets short and simple. Translate them into the most common languages used in your area. Make sure you distribute them properly and to the right target groups – otherwise you can waste a lot of money.
· We have to actively promote openness about HIV and AIDS and create a more supportive environment for people living with HIV and AIDS. Unless we bring the disease into the open, we cannot deal with it effectively. If we cannot break the silence ourselves, we cannot expect the rest of society to do so.
· As organizations we can:
· Encourage and support people living with HIV and AIDS to go public about their status
· Ask people living with HIV and AIDS to sit on platforms and speak at meetings with our leaders
· Encourage testing by organizing testing drives and asking those leaders who are willing to, to go public about their results
· Create role models for how to cope with HIV and AIDS, by encouraging our leaders and other influential people who are HIV positive to reveal their status and to help campaign and raise awareness.
· Awareness campaigns are used to make issues visible and to change public attitudes. They should aim to get publicity and to directly reach thousands of people. Be sensitive in the way you campaign. People are easily turned away by campaigns that are too aggressive or negative. Here are some methods you could use:
· AIDS ribbons - everyone should wear the red AIDS ribbon to show their support – especially local leaders.
· Banners – make a striking banner and hang it in a prominent place. Take it to places where many people gather – like soccer matches. The banner should have a clear message with a slogan and a picture if possible.
· Posters/pamphlets/graffiti – use posters and pamphlets to raise the issues or give people information. Get them from other organizations or make your own. Get permission from the council to paint an educational mural in a public place.
Most people who are HIV positive do not know it. This means that they will unknowingly spread the disease to their partners while they are in the early stages.
There are few, if any, symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The flu-like symptoms that often occur shortly after infection usually pass quickly so most people do not know that they have become HIV-positive (seroconverted is the medical term)). This underlines the importance of people being tested even if they have no symptoms. Testing should not be a once-off activity. Encourage people to be tested every couple of years.
We should stress four main things as good reasons for testing:
· If you know you are still negative, you can make sure that you protect yourself and stay negative.
· If you know that you are positive, you can do the right things to stay healthy.
· If you know that you are positive, you can protect your partner by practicing safe sex.
· We should also stress that it is the right thing to do and that it is our moral responsibility to not spread the disease. This should not be the main reason we use. The four listed above may be more effective since they appeal to people’s self-interest. It is also important to set up counselling and testing in places where it is comfortable and where people can go without others finding out. The facilities should be open at times when working people can get there. There should also be a referral system in place so that when someone tests positive they can be offered other forms of support. We must use all our public education and awareness methods to promote testing.