|© UNICEF video|
|Peer leader Kiemde, 12, has dedicated his life to fighting AIDS in Burkina Faso since he lost his father two years ago.|
On 3 April, the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign will launch its second stocktaking report on efforts to protect young people from HIV and AIDS. Here is one in a series of related stories.
By Jean-Jacques Nduita
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, 1 April 2008 – Approximately 120,000 children in Burkina Faso have lost a parent to HIV/AIDS. Among them, is Kiemde, 12, who lost his father two years ago. Now, he dedicates every weekend to teaching his classmates and friends how to protect themselves against the virus that took his father’s life.
“I believe we young people need to be sufficiently informed about HIV/AIDS to better know how to avoid it,” said Kiemde.
For the past year, Kiemde has led a peer-education programme to combat AIDS in Bissighin, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. The club is sponsored by the African Youth Network Against AIDS, the youth arm of a UNICEF-supported non-governmental organization. In the past seven years, the national network has grown to nearly 2,000 youth clubs.
Promoting club participation
Twenty-five children are currently participating in Kiemde’s club, which combines sport with education as a way to strengthen peer involvement and promote HIV/AIDS awareness.
|© UNICEF video|
|Peer-to-peer clubs help youths to share knowledge and correct misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.|
With a population of just under 15 million, Burkina Faso has seen a heavy toll from HIV and AIDS among young people, who constitute around 55 per cent of the country. Approximately 17,000 children aged 14 and under are living with HIV.
Consisting mainly of students, the club has also kept the door open to children unable to attend school. Encouraging children to participate in club activities was not always easy for Kiemde.
“At first, many of my classmates were reluctant to join the club, pretending HIV/AIDS is adult’s business. Now that they can perceive some of the benefits we get from our discussions, they understand this is their business, too,” he said.
Discussions with club members are based on young people’s existing knowledge and misconceptions about HIV. Club members report what they hear people on the streets saying about the virus, then young leaders like Kiemde clarify whether the information is correct.
’A future awaiting us’
Despite the loss of his father, Kiemde considers himself lucky. His mother is still alive and healthy, and his confidence as a peer educator has grown tremendously over the past couple months – buoyed by his desire to safeguard Burkina Faso’s future generations.
Kiemde’s club provides a safe place for peers to communicate, educate and strengthen their bonds in the fight against AIDS.
“The earlier children are informed about HIV/AIDS, the better they will be saved from the damages of the disease," Kiemde said. "There is a future awaiting us.”