Adolescents in Moldova learn to become peer educators on HIV
CHISINAU, Modova, 5 September 2008 – This summer, more than 1,400 adolescents have been trained to become HIV peer educators. Through summer camps held in seven districts, the young people learned about HIV transmission and methods of prevention using games, slogan contests and role plays. They also discussed the issue of discrimination and stigma faced by many people living with HIV.
"The peer group is an important means of socialization, especially at the age of puberty and adolescence when an opinion about a healthy lifestyle is formed. It is a connection that we have been using for several years and that has proven its efficacy,” said Viorel Babii, UNICEF Coordinator of the Youth for HIV/AIDS Prevention Project. “This year we have received more support from local authorities which proves that these programs are very useful and that young people need them,” he added.
The peer educators went through a rather rigorous selection process. Only the ones who demonstrated motivation to bring changes to their schools and communities were selected from each school. “I am proud that I have been selected. I have worked hard to demonstrate that my opinion matters to my colleagues and that I will be listened to when I tell my peers about HIV/AIDS,” says Natalia Suruceanu, an adolescent from Anenii Noi City.
The summer camps for peer educators were organized by the Moldovan National Resource Center for Young People and the Ministry of Education and Youth with financial support from UNICEF and its partners including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“UNICEF supports the creation of peer educator teams for HIV/AIDS prevention in order to increase access to accurate information on HIV/AIDS, which unfortunately is still very limited among adolescents," said Larisa Lazarescu-Spetetchi, UNICEF Programme Coordinator for HIV/AIDS and Vulnerable Adolescents. "Studies have shown that information transmitted on a peer-to-peer basis and the participation of young people in fighting HIV/AIDS is the most efficient way to inform adolescents and young people and to reduce behaviors that imply a higher risk of infection.”
Since 2007, a peer educator network for HIV/AIDS prevention has been created and it now involves more than 1,000 adolescents aged 12 to 18, from more than 270 schools throughout the country. They will be joined by another 1,400 peers who have been trained this summer. According to a study carried out by UNICEF and the National Resource Center for Young People, as a result of peer-to-peer approach, in 2007 the number of adolescents who had accurate knowledge about HIV/AIDS increased almost six times, from 8 per cent to 48 per cent. In addition, the number of pupils with a tolerant attitude towards people living with HIV/AIDS also doubled.