Histoires de vie

Histoires de vie

 

Young People Fight HIV/AIDS in a Post-conflict Situation

In Kinkala, a town in the Pool Department of Congo – an area surrounding the capital Brazzaville that has only recently emerged from a long-lasting and devastating conflict - an innovative experience is developing: a project of HIV/AIDS prevention run by the youth for the youth.

“In my own group of friends, one of my friends – a girl - has contracted AIDS after being raped by several armed men.” 
Dieumerci Mbenza, the youth coordinating the project, pauses for a few seconds, struggling to keep away emotion.
“These terrible acts are still common, in our area – he continues. And it is particularly the girls who are victims of rape. But for HIV/AIDS, both girls and boys are very much in danger, because of lack of information, because of poverty and prostitution, because of the prevalent violence, alcohol and drugs, and a lot of misconceptions...

“With some friends, we decided we wanted to do something, and we created a small association to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS. I still remember the community meeting, last year, in Kinkala, when we approached a lady from UNICEF, to ask for support.  And this support has come, in the form of training of peer educators on how to share correct information, dispel doubts and misconceptions, help other young people learn the skills needed to prevent AIDS…

“We have created 4 Youth Clubs in Kinkala, and all of them are active. We have also received from UNICEF some materials, such as games for our youth clubs: scribbles, Stop AIDS, and a TV and DVD player to organise film shows and discussions - about AIDS, but also about other topics, such as development, education, health, environment….  These games are very useful to encourage young people to join us, to engage them in conversations, break the ice, and start talking about AIDS. But we also conduct discussions and meetings in the schools and churches. And this year we have organized a door-to-door campaign all over the town to reach each household with the information on how to prevent AIDS.

“The members of our clubs are girls and boys from 10 years of age to 24 years. We have also convinced some ex child soldiers to join our clubs… Some of these boys used to believe that they could not catch AIDS, that they were invulnerable. It was because of ignorance. Now they know that they are as the other youth, and that they have to protect themselves if they are not sure of their partners. It is the golden rule to avoid AIDS and also other sex diseases. You know, at the beginning the ex child soldiers used to become very aggressive, when we were talking about condoms as one of the way to prevent AIDS.  But now, they talk about sex and risk practices without problems, and they even distribute condoms to their friends. Pablo, one of them, does not stop shouting at the top of his lungs that he preaches by practicing. He does use condoms…

“ In general, it is not that easy to talk about AIDS. I have noticed that it is easier with the girls than with the boys.  But these days more and more young people want to be tested for HIV/AIDS to know if they got it. Unfortunately, here in Kinkala there is no way to be tested, and going to Brazzaville is a long way.”

 

 
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