Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Speaking Out: Talking to Secondary Schools about HIV/AIDS

One of the most rewarding projects we have undertaken as a Crossroads Group has been speaking at local secondary schools on sex, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections. The students have been attentive and endlessly curious. Each session is started with an introduction about the way things are in the US--describing that sex and HIV are spoken about openly and explaining how this has helped to break the stigma of the disease. We stress the importance of abstinence as the only 100% effective measure, and realistically educate the students that condoms are the best method of preventing disease if they choose to be sexually active.

Through anonymous question slips we have been able to uncover and combat many of the myths circulating about HIV, including: "HIV can't be transmitted through sex with a virgin", "HIV can be transmitted through toilet seats, sharing towels, or kissing", and that "HIV is a virus created in a US lab to destroy Africa". We received great but difficult questions to answer such as: "If a young person is HIV positive can they ever have children?", "How can I know if my boyfriend/girlfriend has HIV?", and "If 2 people are positive, can they have unprotected sex?"

The female students, in particular, loved hearing from the girls in our group. They noted it was great to hear from women who could speak openly and honestly about difficult sexual issues. We received a warm welcome in nearly every school we visitied, although it was unfortunate that some administrators were stuck in the mindset that talking about sex and condoms promotes sexual activity. Educating young minds on HIV and opening discussions on sex will hopefully spur these students to continue to ask more questions and expose the issues not talked about in many communities. These youths truly are the ones with the ability to change the course of HIV in Kenya.

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