Feature story

Prevention programming for young people

16 June 2007

Following the official opening of the HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting in Kigali, presenters from Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Namibia and Haiti shared their experiences in HIV prevention programming for young people.

During the session, Robert Bernard Morehead of the US Peace Corps gave a presentation on “Secondary School Communications Clubs for Behaviour Change in Young Mozambican Men”. Mr Morehead explained that the communication programme was aimed at reducing HIV incidence among young people in secondary schools in Mozambique. “Our approach is to work with young men and guide them on behaviour change,” he said.

In Mozambique in 2005, the prevalence rate among adults aged 15-49 was 16.1%, with 10.7% among young women aged between 15-24 and 3.6% among young men of the same age range. Mr Morehead emphasized the need to explore individuals’ and society’s gender stereotypes, to discuss with young women in facilitated sessions and recognize how gender inequalities can lead to HIV transmission. He also highlighted the necessity of involving community professionals to provide technical support for peer educators. The evaluation of the programme observed that at the end of the programme students did articulate an understanding of how some traditional male roles can increase the risk of HIV transmission.

Another approach, used in the Amharic Region of Ethiopia and presented by Annabel S. Erulkar of the Population Council, aims to prevent new HIV infections and promote mutual faithfulness through addressing the risk of HIV transmission among adolescents. Erulkar said that religious institutions may be the only sustained institutional contact for rural populations. With a population of more than 19 million people, the Amharic region is the biggest in Ethiopia. Some 89% of is inhabitants are rural.

The introduction of youth-friendly health services in Uzbekistan is another model that was presented at the session. Komiljon Akhmedov of UNICEF noted the need to use youth-friendly services when focusing on young adolescents who are the most at risk in Uzbekistan.

Mr Akhmedov said that the number of HIV cases had been growing among young people in Uzbekistan and added that 35% of adolescents engaged in selling sex could not identify the modes of HIV transmission. He stressed the need to involve parents in the programmes as reproductive health information sessions cannot be provided to juveniles without their parents’ consent.

Johane Philogene from Haiti shared her experiences on working on a model of an adapted nationwide multi-faceted HIV program for young people. “This programme is based on the active participation of young people as key actors in all interventions,” she said. A network of 15 youth-friendly centres in Haiti were set up and offer a number of activities including education, training, and edutainment. More than 38,000 youths have been tested for HIV in Haiti while 30,000 are receiving family life education training.

Rushnan Murtaza of UNICEF Namibia presented on the “Window of Opportunities” programme which has been set up to support children in Namibia. Namibia is a country that enjoys a per capita income of US $1,800 but 42% of rural families still live in poverty and HIV prevalence among 14-19 year-olds was at around 10% in 2005. Murtaza noted that findings in 2006 in one region showed that 41% of girls had dropped out of school due to pregnancy.

Participants debated the importance of supporting youth programmes and particularly those focusing on those most at risk of HIV infection. They emphasized the need to advocate for young people so that concerted efforts could be put in place to help prevent HIV infection. Participants agreed that it is crucial to establish trust with young people and to coordinate interventions with other stakeholders involved in similar programmes.


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