HIV/AIDS fight…
NGOs, faith-based entities encourage abstinence

Kaieteur News
March 21, 2007

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Through the concerted efforts of two non-governmental organisations involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, faith-based entities, and the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, a ground-breaking project aimed at advocating abstinence and faithfulness, was launched recently.

The commencement of the “Abstinence and Be Faithful” campaign saw the introduction of specific communication materials aimed at achieving the desired goal and was launched by Artistes In Direct Support, in partnership with the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Love and Faith Outreach Ministries and the USAID/Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention.

The campaign is of great significance to Guyana 's expanded and innovative response to HIV/AIDS and seeks to achieve among other things, to ensure early adoption from key personalities within the media fraternity, the faith- and community-based organizations, as well as key stakeholders in the wider society.

It also aims at creating balance amongst the prevention efforts of the undertaking by placing more emphasis on Abstinence and Faithfulness as HIV risk reduction behaviours and showcasing local talent involved in the creation and production of the materials to the media, and to create hype and publicity for the programme.

The communication materials will receive wide dissemination throughout the country.

They will comprise TV and Radio Spots, two Billboards, a comic book, a Pop Kool Kit, abstinence and refusal skills manual, a peer education manual and a music video.

Giving an overview of the project, Communications personnel of GHARP Dale Browne, said it was initiated in May, of last year when a Creative Design Workshop was held.

One month later the pre-test result was made available and in August, modification of material based on pre-test findings was done.


He informed that qualitative research using focus group discussions was conducted, and included in-school youth boys and girls, parents and religious leaders.

Twelve focus groups and two in-depth interviews were conducted and a total of 98 respondents interviewed

at three locations in two regions. These included Georgetown and Parika.

In December, there was the presentation and orientation to key stakeholders.

Commenting on the comic book, Browne explained that the target audience is young people between the ages of 13 and 17.

The main aims of the book are to portray abstinence as the cool thing to do, demonstrate the disadvantages of premature sex, and model what responsible behaviour is in realistic situations faced by school-aged girls.

Providing an insight into the material he noted that young girls are very susceptible to charm, hence, falling in love easily making them willing to barter their innocence for the promise of “true love”.

Meanwhile the “teen riddim” brochure aims at portraying abstinence as a positive and ‘cool' lifestyle choice, changing the idea of the term “Sex Smart” from being promiscuous to that of protecting yourself from HIV by practicing abstinence until marriage.

The brochures provide practical and credible information on dealing with relationship issues and abstinence

Browne noted that teens are “misinformed and misguided” on the topic of love, sex and sexuality. Curiosity pervades their senses hence the need for credible communication material that gives them the facts in their lingo

The two billboards “Guys love to score” and “Sex, are you ready for what comes with it?” are to be erected on Sheriff Street and the Demerara Harbour Bridge respectively.

‘Guys love to score' is a player's diary which aims to present the realities of life to school-aged girls

This is against the backdrop of the fact that relationships are very important to young girls. Some often fall in love based on the macho image portrayed in music videos and films etc., and are left disappointed with the reality.

Through the portrayal of a young boy feeding a baby while in the background, his friends conduct fun activities, the other billboard encourages in-school male youths not to miss out on life and promotes abstinence.

It also realistically reveals the serious consequences of early sexual activity and makes it visually candid.

The insight is that guys want to “score” with girls and often they forget about the consequences.

Meanwhile, the Abstinence and Refusal Skills Manual is designed to teach self-restraint and refusal skills to young people, and to encourage those who have already initiated sexual activity to opt for secondary abstinence.

The activities in the manual engage parents and guardians of young people and assist them to develop an environment that supports and motivates their children to abstain.

“Faith Matters” is a faith-based manual that addresses abstinence, faithfulness, compassion, care and counseling in a step-by-step self-teaching style.

Developed through an inter-faith encounter with leaders and members of the three major religions, it incorporates the doctrines of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, and to a lesser extent other religions practiced in Guyana .

The manual was produced for teachers, trainers and peer educators and is guided by behaviour change communication strategies, spiritual insights and teachings.

“The Way You Use to Love Me” a 3 minute 30 second music video, targets young couples contemplating marriage or already married.

The objective is to demonstrate the pain infidelity causes your spouse and the power of loyalty and commitment in a marital relationship.

It also serves as an extension of the brochure already printed titled “How to make your marriage sizzle”.

Browne said the video takes into account the fact that young couples contemplating marriage or already married tend to give up on love/marriage the moment it becomes challenging.

He also noted that males and females are prone to want to explore “greener pastures” by pursuing an extra-marital affair without cognizance of the pain it can cause their spouse.

“These materials support the promotion of Abstinence and Faithfulness and add to the value base of the faith-based community's efforts towards preventing and mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in Guyana ,” Browne said, while pointing out that the support of the media in the national dissemination of the material is critical to the nation's success.

He reiterated the essential role of the media in reversing the progression of HIV. “Education to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS is a key factor in the fight against the disease, and clearly, media organisations have an enormous potential to undertake these activities. However, doing this with maximum efficiency requires a clear understanding of the challenges and the obstacles to widespread and effective HIV-prevention education.”

At the launching, representatives of the Muslim, Christian and Hindu faiths endorsed the project and lauded the initiative as one which will enhance the efforts in their respective organisations.

Osama Samad of the reiterated his organisation's commitment to the fight noting that the Holy Quran urges compassion

Meanwhile, Khrisna Persaud thanked GHARP for the material which he described as insightful in bringing about change in Hindu families.

“When the workshop with GHARP was first touted, an old pandit stated that he was too old to be affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the materials, he was able to see how the disease could affect his grandchildren … they are very inspiring and encourage young people to make informed choices and learn from each other.”

According to him, the material also provides answers to questions in a comprehensive, candid manner.

He opined that this approach was needed to change many old Hindu customs.

“Words such as vagina were taboo in the homes. Many Hindus were in denial, and believed that because they were living in a certain culture they were protected… the manual allows us to discuss issues relating to HIV/AIDS freely at our places of worship,” Persaud said.

And, Pastor Alexander Isaacs in lauding the project opined that Abstinence has been downplayed too long as a preventative mechanism towards the disease.

He added that the new material will assist the Christian community in pushing HIV prevention and control in the churches and at the community level.

“It's a well thought out project ...there's a lot of young people in the church and these materials will help to empower them to make wise choices.”