Sound systems DJs to join AIDS fight

by Abigail Kippins
Guyana Chronicle
September 14, 2000

THERE is mounting concern about the rise of the killer disease AIDS here but a group of entertainers with wide influence over younger people is joining the fight to help prevent the spread.

DJs with the popular big sound systems known more for pushing sexually suggestive messages at fetes and in their music, yesterday pledged to take up the battle to help stop the spread of AIDS.

"I am now empowered to go out there and do something good", said Mr Neil Cadogan, entertainer and Director of `Ruff Kut Entertainment System'.

He was among several at the closing session of a three-day sensitisation workshop sponsored by the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS) as part of its World AIDS Campaign activities for this year.

"Because of my eye-opening experience these past three days, my persuasive and creative energies would be aimed at making a good change of people's indifference", he said.

Cadogan and the others from the country's top entertainment sound systems also vowed to practise safe sex and to push the AIDS awareness message to fans through their music.

The entertainers were targeted by NAPS which through the workshop, wanted to sensitise the sector to the HIV epidemic so that they in turn would broadcast what they learned to the public through entertainment.

The Caribbean is the region with the highest AIDS rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa and the World Bank this week said it planned to boost HIV/AIDS programmes in these parts over the next three to four years.

Members of the entertainment fraternity now joining the battle here include Mr Roger Gilgeous, owner and manager and Mr Bevaughn Moore, DJ, of `Stereo Sonic Entertainment'; Mr Kerwin Bollers and Mr Sherlon Adamson called `Face', DJs with `Stone Love'; Mr Anthony Blair, Manager of `Eee Cee Connection'; Cadogan and Ms Fatuma Blount of `Ruff Kut Entertainment System', all from Georgetown and Mr Marlon Wayne of `Rhythm Star International' in Berbice.

Aimed at raising participants' awareness and exploring ways in which NAPS and the entertainment sector can collaborate more effectively against the HIV epidemic now raging in Guyana, the workshop made full use of Video Mega Productions to record music-based messages, raps and other productions to highlight AIDS awareness.

Ms Bonita Harris, facilitator of the workshop, said the events were a success and the DJs were targeted primarily because of their influence over a wide range of young people.

People tend to respond more to music, she said, acknowledging that this workshop was the most special and most productive.

She added, "...the work we've done is beginning to have reverberations...the good humour, the warmth and the fraternity of the workshop made it feel as though brothers and sisters were hanging together in a productive manner...I know this would go over into your family, friends and workmates and would make you feel better and your music better..."

The seminar entailed discussions on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), HIV and AIDS and the entertainers were given the opportunity to ask questions and suggest answers relating to the AIDS crisis in the country.

One DJ said what impacted more on the bunch were the oral testimonies by two persons living with HIV.

This, the others said, made them more sensitive towards such persons and they pledged to stop their former judgmental attitudes towards persons living with the disease.

At the closing session yesterday, the entertainers were asked to discuss what they enjoyed about the workshop, what they learned and how they would change their lives as a result of the workshop.

Gilgeous said he was never really a `player' (playing around sexually) but plans to clean up his `act' wherever necessary. He said he was a bit disappointed that more entertainers did not turn out to the workshop but still promised to pass on the message.

'Face', who was reluctant to have his name printed as Sherlon Adamson, said he planned to stop being a `player' and will stick to one partner. This, however, was greeted by some insinuating chuckles from some members of the group.

The young DJ admitted that he had very little knowledge of HIV/AIDS and was grateful for what he learned over the three days.

He said he had always thought that persons living with the virus always exhibit certain symptoms. Thus, he said he may have been looking in vain for the symptoms when in fact persons with the virus may be looking as healthy as himself.

Blount, the sole female entertainer in the group, said she will be more sensitive and affectionate to persons living with AIDS and will stop judging them.

The young woman also promised to "pass the message around".

Stating how much he enjoyed the workshop, and how comfortable he was during the discussions, Bollers said the workshop "ended too quickly". The `Stone Love' DJ added that he will try to stick to one partner to avoid contracting HIV.

However, he said he will not shun persons living with AIDS.

'Blondie' has decided to take an AIDS test to know "which group I fit into." He said that over the three days the information he received has made him wiser.

"Reading about it and hearing people talking about it was not enough...the opportunity to interact with persons living with AIDS helped me to dispel all negativity about these persons and I will also work feverishly to ensure I stick to one partner."

Recognising that they could make a difference through their music, other members of the group expressed similar attitudes towards changing their lives and educating others.

Also giving their input towards transmitting the AIDS awareness appeal were Ms Melanie Thomas, Health Education Officer and Ms Stacy Wilson, Hotline facilitator at NAPS.

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