Workshop seeks to produce toolkit for youths living with HIV/AIDS

Guyana Chronicle
May 15, 2003

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'It is important that young people be equipped with the necessary skills, competencies and avenues to play their part in the fight against HIV/AIDS' -- Director, Commonwealth Youth Programme

The main objective of the seminar involved resource persons working with young people who are living with HIV/AIDS, as well as those affected by the disease, in the task of compiling reference material and identifying topics to be included in a toolkit.

At the conclusion of the workshop, scheduled for yesterday, the group to be named 'Commonwealth Youths for Positive Living' (CYPL) would have been launched, officials said.

According to official reports, more than 500,000 people in the Commonwealth Caribbean were recorded as living with HIV/AIDS up to the year 2001.

Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, Mr. Armstrong Alexis, told the workshop participants Monday, that it is important that young people be equipped with the necessary skills, competencies and avenues to play their part in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

According to Alexis, over the past 30 years, the CYP has been committed to youth development in the Caribbean region and in other regions across the globe.

He said that the issue of HIV/AIDS, though being one, which affects the entire population, disproportionately affects young people.

To this end, CYP has been able to respond in a significant way by promoting the involvement of young people in fighting the disease and providing those affected with care and support.

Alexis assured participants that the workshop would be one with a difference because the outcome would be "realistic and achievable".

He said the participants would have been required to write, compose, draft and compile a handbook that will serve as a guide to establishing and executing the Youth for Positive Living Programme across the Commonwealth Caribbean.

Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) Representative Dr. Daphne Phillips noted in her remarks that cases of young people being affected with HIV in the region have been spreading at a very rapid rate.

She said that new cases recorded showed that 50 per cent of the young people affected are in the age group of 15 to 24 years old.

"We see therefore that the youth component in this whole response to HIV is so very important," she asserted, adding that the workshop was critical in facing and overcoming the challenge.

Dr Phillips said that although this situation puts young people in the region in deep crisis because of the rate at which the disease is spreading, there is still hope.

She said that according to some of the statistics on the disease in some CARICOM countries such as The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, there has been a levelling up and the beginning of a 'dip' in the figures. These developments are viewed as "encouraging", she said.

The CAREC official was optimistic that if Guyana could identify the strategies that have been used in those countries, those methods could be adopted to make a positive impact in stemming the spread of the disease here as well. But everyone must be involved, she emphasised.

Phillips charged that national leadership, people in the workplace and community groups, among others, must show care and support for persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Meanwhile, Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme, Dr. Morris Edwards, was of the view that Guyana's response to the epidemic should be youth-driven, since Guyana, one of the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, records a very high prevalence of cases among its youth population between the ages of 15 and 24.

Dr. Edwards said that the Commonwealth's involvement in the design and implementation of a programme to target and encourage youths to live positively must be seen as a significant step in stemming the spread of the disease.

He noted that many persons who were present at the workshop, have been bombarding the National AIDS Secretariat enquiring what the agency was doing for young people living with HIV.

Edwards said he was happy about the collaboration with CYP, and noted that there are many organisations in Guyana responding to the crisis.

He commended the joint effort between the CYP and G+ in developing a toolkit that would be very useful and relevant to young people.

"We hear the words being said all the time that persons living with HIV and AIDS should not be a part of the problem. They are part of the solution.

"Here is an opportunity for young people living with HIV and those affected by it, to respond in a very positive and effective manner," Edwards pointed out.

In May 2002, the Caribbean Centre of the Commonwealth Youth Programme organised a regional planning workshop entitled, "Empowering Youth for Positive Living".

This workshop introduced the Youths for Positive Living programme, which explored the possibility of Commonwealth Caribbean member states implementing it within their respective countries. (JAIME HALL)

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