`Ready Body' campaign targets `limers', mini-bus drivers

by Abigail Kippins
Guyana Chronicle
June 1, 2001

THE Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth Project yesterday launched its `Ready Body, Is it Really Ready?' communication campaign for this year as it continues outreach and HIV/AIDS prevention activities among the country's youths, specifically targeting `limers', mini-bus drivers and conductors.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project will feature a phased approach, presenting three television, three radio and three print public advertisements and print material for youths.

It also involves public relations to promote media coverage of the campaign and the Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth Project, officials said.

It is expected that over the next few months, the attention of young people will be called to the project's "Ready Body" theme, their thinking stimulated and through discussions, learn about what a "Ready Body" is.

They should be able to identify specific features of what a "Ready Body" is, including leading a healthy lifestyle, having responsible attitudes towards one's health and practising responsible sexual behaviour; and promoting an environment of care and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

The theme "Ready Body, Is it really Ready?" was reused this year since it was so effective last year, Mr. Derek Springer, UNAIDS Focal Point/AIDS Programme Assistant, UNICEF said at the launch at the Ocean View International Hotel, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

The Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth Project began last year by supporting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to conduct outreach activities among urban youth in Georgetown, Linden, and New Amsterdam but it recently expanded to include Bartica and Regions One and Eight.

Springer noted that based on the group's interaction with the youths it is working with, those involved are beginning to see changes in the youths' behaviour.

He pointed out that the youths are becoming more aware of the risks involved in contracting HIV and a number of them have been requesting HIV testing and condoms.

He said there has been an increase of more than 100,000 in the distribution of condoms.

Springer said that based on feedback they were having, they are more encouraged that through the project they were able to get the message over to young people.

"The communication strategy that we have developed will assist us to be able to disseminate information using the pamphlet, for instance", he said.

He added that the project was also effective because young people were involved in the actual design of the campaign, and the use of slangs in the advertisements for instance were able to get the youths' attention.

Added to this, "...the project focuses on youths educating each other, rather than adults, and we found that young people are more willing to talk to their peers...", Springer said.

This year, Regions Four, Six, Ten and Seven will be targeted but because the campaign will be conducted through the media, it will reach other areas that they are not necessarily targeting, Springer explained.

On July 2, "Ready Body Fever", a family fun day, will be held at Thirst Park, Georgetown and will include entertainment, educational, opportunities, sports, interactive computer sessions, audio-visual displays and refreshments.

"Cry of AIDS Bartica", the newest non-governmental organisation to join the Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth Project, intends to launch its new status as a project members with a special event in July.

World AIDS Campaign launches will be in October/November by the Guyana HIV/AIDS/STI Youth Project NGOs to begin a build-up of activities culminating in World AIDS Day on December 1.

The aim of the eight project NGOs, Artistes in Direct Support (Georgetown), Comforting Hearts (New Amsterdam), Cry of AIDS (Bartica), Lifeline Counselling Services (Georgetown), Linden Care Foundation (Linden), Volunteer Youth Corps (Georgetown), Youth Challenge Guyana (Georgetown), and Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), is to educate and stimulate communities to action around HIV/AIDS/ and STIs.

To date, participants of the project have completed a risk assessment survey conducted by trained youths, with data from 750 youth in the initial three project communities, and have had successful implementation of inventive outreach activities such as walk-a-thons, cultural theatre, education awareness motorcades targeting youth on the street, HIV/AIDS Literacy Contest, youth summit camp and extensive training and peer education activities reaching hundreds of youths, among other things.

However, the group plans to lobby for greater commitment by high government officials to the HIV/AIDS prevention movement, incorporate religious organisations to a much greater extent, build the capacity of the NGOs in such areas as human resource management, accounting and information technology skills, grant proposal writing, strategic planning, and monitoring and evaluation systems, and strategic behaviour change communication.

They also want to incorporate several new NGOs and continue to expand the demographic reach of the project.

Guyana was declared second to Haiti in the Latin American/Caribbean region for HIV/AIDS prevalence by UNAIDS.