Most commendable action by NGOs

Guyana Chronicle
August 28, 2000

TODAY, there will be a unique happening in the city, which event will have positive and far-reaching implications, not only for those who heed the message, but also for their relatives, friends, and generations to come. The event is a street fair on Main Street, where a three-year project, targeting youths and promoting responsible sexual practices, will be launched.

The catchy slogan `Operation Ready Body - Is it really ready?' was articulated specifically to attract the attention of today's youths whose world (to an ordinary adult) is a mind-confusing realm of rap and hip-hop music, grunge dressing, designer garments and the relentless pressure to be considered `cool' and popular and successful in sexual and other matters.

The organisers of the project are hoping that youths will be sensitised about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted infections and will so guide their individual choices and behaviours that the spread of these life-threatening maladies will be curtailed dramatically within the next few years. The over-riding message is that although someone would appear healthy, that person might very well be HIV-positive or the carrier of a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).

The organisers have made it very clear that they intend to focus on minibus operatives, `idle' youths, schoolchildren and school-leavers. While the `Ready Body' concept will embrace the holistic view of good health and well-being, its main focus is educating youths about responsible sexual attitudes and behaviours.

Although many people may not realise it, AIDS is indeed the metaphor for the Grim Reaper, who, with a wicked scythe, is cutting a wide and deadly swathe through countries leaving in his wake millions of orphaned children.

Family Health International predicts than in the next decade, the number of orphans living in the 34 countries hardest hit by HIV will rise from 15 million to a least 24 million largely as a result of AIDS deaths. "Even if HIV incidence were to level off tomorrow, you would still have an increase in the number of orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS for at least 20 years to comes," said FHI Technical Officer Sara Bowsky. "The impact of this epidemic will linger for decades."

Several Guyanese were alarmed to learn three weeks ago that this country has one of the highest rates of HIV transmissions in the region. Surveys indicate that HIV/AIDS transmission is most prevalent between young people and persons in their late 30s. That is why we believe that the local `Ready Body' project is very relevant and timely.

As we understand it, the campaign was put together by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with financial assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The NGOs are Life-Line Counselling Services, Youth Challenge International (YCI), the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), the Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC), Artists in Direct Support (AIDS) and Comforting Hearts.

We sincerely commend the leaders of these organisations for their care for the welfare of others, and for their commitment to the cause of curbing the spread of the dreaded AIDS through positive behaviour modification. At a time when many poor people are caught up in the daily task of eking out an existence for themselves and families, not many people take time out to care for the welfare of people they don't even know.

We applaud these persons, most of whom are quite young, in their efforts to make a difference in the quality of existence of others.

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