Friday, December 12, 2014
Students Get HIV/AIDS Reality Check
Sponsored by a grant to One Eleuthera Foundation from the US Embassy and PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief), “Body Talk” is an awareness project that consisted of t-shirt design and poem competitions and a youth rally that sought to educate the public and decrease the stigma of HIV/AIDS throughout communities on Eleuthera. Saturday’s rally consisted of a series of poem readings, song and drama performances and an educational presentation which outlined what the disease is, how it is transmitted, its effects and how it can be prevented.
During the program a major breakthrough occurred when an HIV positive male from Eleuthera spoke about his experiences with the disease. He talked about his personal struggle with HIV and how people have verbally mistreated and shunned him. “This broke my spirit. Sometimes all I could do was cry. I even contemplated taking my life”, he said.
This was a turning point for students as they empathized with him. Flowing tears and the evidence of those being held back showed that this brave gentleman got through to these students. Many reached out for hugs because now they knew he could not transmit his disease to them. They knew that pushing him away and saying mean things would hurt him. It was clear at these moments that the information received and the experience these children had would be burnt on their brains for some time.
“On the way home my nephew couldn’t stop talking about his experience. This is the most powerful event of its kind that I have attended on Eleuthera this year”, one attendee said.
Part of the affair also included award presentations to the winners and participants of the t-shirt and poem competitions held two months prior to the event. The winners of the t-shirt competition, from first to third place respectively, were Rajeave Armbrister, Tyreik Leary and Trayuan Alyenne all students at Preston Albury High School. Winners for the poem competition, from first to third place respectively, were Jerrimia Seymour and Gervontae Kelly both students at Central Eleuthera High School and Sidhira Johnson a student at Deep Creek Middle School.
UNAIDS notes that The Bahamas has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. The primary cause for the spread of HIV in the country is through sex. This is believed to be due to a lack of knowledge concerning safer sex practices. Research shows that education regarding the disease transmission, risk factors, and preventive strategies is effective in slowing the spread of HIV.
“According to statistics provided by the Department of Public Health, Eleuthera ranks 4th out of the entire Bahamas in regard to HIV/AIDS infections. Such events are needed to assist in the decline of HIV/AIDS infections and reduce the stigma associated with being HIV positive”, said One Eleuthera Foundation employee and one of the coordinators for the HIV/AIDS project, Shapreka Clarke.
The US Embassy, PEPFAR, One Eleuthera Foundation, Eleuthera Arts & Cultural Center and Space to Create encourages the public to spread the word, not the disease by using protection when engaging in sexual activities and refrain from mistreating persons who are infected with the disease. The best thing you can do is show them love and affection.