Corriverton youths pushing abstinence to fight HIV/AIDS By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
July 30, 2003

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A group of young Berbicians is seeking to make a change in their hometown of Corriverton by promoting abstinence among school-age children in the hope of curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

FACT, as they call themselves, will be officially launched on August 10, and their mission: “To walk with integrity and to follow its guidance in our lives by choosing what is right; together we will strive to foster the revival and growth of moral standards by creating a positive awareness of the dangers brought about by STDs, and by showing how practising abstinence can promote a society enriched with proper values so that each individual can enjoy the real essence of a healthy life.”

Her main drive in starting the group, says FACT President Sunita Jaundoo, came after her participation in AIDS rallies and the Region Six AIDS Committee, where she learnt that Corriverton has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS.

As yet, statistics are not available, but Jaundoo and her team are on their way to “do something” for the young people in the Upper Corentyne township. Their answer to the prevention of the deadly epidemic is by abstinence among young people and fidelity among couples.

“People don’t like to talk about AIDS, especially when you are dealing with abstinence. People would behave very difficult and ask us how we can tell them about abstinence...but a lot of young people are involved in sex at an early age. It never used to happen before and I think if they abstain, it can avoid them changing multiple partners and avoid being infected. Sometimes at this age [teen-aged] they might think that they have met the right person, but later, would change and that might continue until they reach adult age and then they might find someone who is the right person, but sometimes it might be too late.”

Until the launch of the group, FACT members, some themselves still teenagers, are meeting every Wednesday to share ideas and resources, and also to plan how best to reach the community members.

“Our group goes back to the Bible, the Koran and Gita, all [of which] say abstinence before marriage...If we go back to any one of these holy books, they would tell you that if you wait until the right time, you can avoid yourself being infected.”

But for the many who are already sexually active, the group is working on raising the level of awareness about HIV/AIDS through workshops, lectures, slide and video shows, rap sessions with medical personnel, essay competitions, walk-a-thons and the soon-to-be launched television talk show.

Referring to the talk show, FACT president Jaundoo explained that, “It would be a call-in programme where people can raise concerns and someone would be there to answer their queries.” At the moment, Dr Phyllis Graves is the patron of the group.

Vice-President Stanton Grant says there has not yet been any concrete proof to show that abstinence works. Nonetheless, he cautioned that the group recognises that with such a message, there would be a need to find other outlets for young people.

“Knowledge is important in curbing the spread of the disease...[but] talk alone does not provide [the solution]. What needs to be done is to show the benefits of abstinence, provide other outlets and develop programmes,” Grant said.

According to the young man, FACT targets secondary school students, “who should not be sexually active”, with the hope that they would become responsible adults and further impart their knowledge on future generations. “We think that that is a good way to start...With adults we can’t go and tell them to abstain, but would impart safer sexual practices.”

The discussions take place at the end of the working day at Jaundoo’s home and for some members of the group it is a learning experience that can create positive changes in their lives. One of the youngest FACT members, Adesh Sanichara, told this newspaper that he joined the drive mainly to learn more about the disease.

Although their methods might vary, the intention is the same. A young pastor, Chris Mangal, plans to attack the problem from a biblical point of view; that sex before marriage is a sin.

“Those who are married need to be faithful to their partners and those who are already infected you can still tell them there is hope because God is a forgiving God. I will show them where abstinence is the only way...and urge youths to listen to their parents,” Mangal stated.

The general consensus is that parents need to be more open about sexual matters with their children, since research has shown that those children “were less likely to fall prey to the disease”. As such, the group plans to work with the older residents.

“Parents on the whole are not equipped with the requisite skills and the knowledge to impart that on their children.”

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