Dramatic video to help HIV education campaign

by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
December 16, 2000

A NINETY-minute dramatic video production titled `A force to Reckon' has been launched to help highlight the risks of HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

It is also meant to provide youths with correct information and strategies to reduce their risk and promote the need to build support for people living with HIV/AIDS, producers said this week.

The video production was scripted and directed by the late actor/director Andre Sobryan who died from AIDS.

Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, Chairperson of the United Nations `Theme Group' on HIV/AIDS in Guyana, told reporters the video, which was professionally produced, used amateur actors drawn from schools in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica).

The video was co-directed by Ms Desiree Edghill-Adams, coordinated by Mr Berkeley Houston of Treasure Trove Production and filmed by COMVETECH, she said.

At the launching at the office of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) in Georgetown, Theodore-Gandi also presented two cheques for more than $2M to two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help encourage youths to assess their risks to HIV/STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and examine ways of reducing these risks.

The two NGOs are `Comforting Hearts' from New Amsterdam and `Cry of AIDS' project in Bartica and the grant given to them by the UN Theme Group will go towards the implementation of `Youth Peer Education Projects' among in-school youths in 11 secondary schools around the country.

Theodore-Gandi said third form students will be trained and given ongoing support to conduct HIV/AIDS/STDs awareness and education sessions as well as one-on-one sessions with their peers, 12 to 19 years old.

She said this will complement the Red Cross Youth Project and the USAID/HIV/AIDS/STI youth scheme.

The video will be used by the youths targeted by this project as a peer educational tool.

The official explained that the Theme Group will continue to collaborate with the national programme, NGOs and others to support the national response to HIV/AIDS.

She also pointed out that as the main advocate for worldwide action against HIV/AIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) global mission is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV/AIDS.

At a country level the UN Theme group on HIV/AIDS exists to strengthen the national response through coordination of the UN co-sponsors' response to HIV/AIDS, she said.

Theodore-Gandi pointed out that the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in Guyana comprises UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, PAHO/WHO, European Union, CIDA, USAID, the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, and the Ministries of Education and Culture, Youth and Sports.

PAHO/WHO is the current chair of the Theme Group, she added.

Over the last three years the Theme Group has provided support to the national AIDS programme to expand and strengthen the national response to HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

"Through this support HIV/AIDS and non HIV/AIDS NGOs' organisational and operational capacity was built and strengthened to respond to HIV/AIDS in eight regions of Guyana," she said.

Regional AIDS committees were also supported to implement world AIDS campaign activities, she said.

The skills of health care professionals to diagnose and manage sexually transmitted infections in eight regions were strengthened and the data collection system at the Genito-Urinary Clinic in Georgetown was improved, Theodore-Gandi explained.

The national programme was assisted by the Theme Group and PAHO/CAREC to develop a three-year National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS (1999-2001).

She said this plan is now in operation in the form of an Implementation Plan 2000-2002. The national response will be guided by this plan, she said.

According to her, NGOs have been funded by the Theme Group to implement projects directed towards the HIV/AIDS response in eight regions.

The NGOs are accessing funding from other donor agencies to implement youth friendly HIV/AIDS projects as a direct result of the Theme Group's capacity building efforts.

It has been found worldwide and in Guyana, she noted, that HIV prevalence is higher among young people.

"In Guyana, the 19-35 years age group, accounts for almost eighty per cent of all reported cases."

"Like many agencies responding to the epidemic, the Theme Group has recognised the vulnerability of youths to HIV and STIs and has therefore taken the initiative to support NGOs to implement projects that seek to reduce youths risk of HIV/STI through youth peer education," the Chairperson said.

"Youth peer education is seen by youths as an effective strategy to curb the increase in HIV and STIs among youths," she added.

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