|© UNICEF Video|
|Built from an old shipping container, the UNICEF-sponsored information centre is helping educate young people about the danger of HIV and AIDS along the busy Ethiopia – Djibouti highway.|
By Thomas Nybo
DJIBOUTI, Djibouti, 23 December, 2005 – The highway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia is one of the busiest in the Horn of Africa. It is also one of the most dangerous places for contracting HIV. Each day as they wait for their shipments at the Djibouti port, hundreds of truck drivers stop their rigs near the poor communities that surround the port. During this down time many drivers pay women from the nearby neighbourhoods to have sex.
Most of these women have little education and do not know how to protect themselves against HIV. Almost five percent of all women between 15 and 49 years of age in Djibouti are infected with HIV.
“On average, boys and girls in Djibouti start to have sexual relations, between 16 and 17,” says UNICEF Communication Officer Omar Habib, “So it's very risky. There are a lot of risks for them to be in contact with truck drivers. We have to address this problem."
In response, UNICEF has set up an information centre in an old shipping container alongside the highway. On the outside huge HIV related posters attract attention, while inside local volunteers raise awareness by speaking to people about the danger of HIV/AIDS.
The lack of information about HIV/AIDS among Djibouti's young people is one of the greatest challenges faced in the fight against HIV. A recent survey revealed that forty-eight percent of people under 24 did not know that using a condom could reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Today at the UNICEF information centre anyone, including truckers, women and children, can learn the facts about HIV – how the virus is spread, how to protect themselves and where to get tested. They also have access to free condoms. On average 300 condoms per day are handed out by the project volunteer staff.
“I come here twice a week for condoms,” says seventeen-year-old Said, who had intercourse for the first time last year and did not use a condom. He says he’s now thankful for the information that could save his life. "The man in charge explained how to use condoms and why it is important to use them to prevent HIV.”
As night falls, the highway brings another wave of truckers with idle time on their hands. The HIV threat still lingers, but through this UNICEF programme, hundreds of young men and women now know how to protect themselves.
23 December 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on one program in Djibouti which uses knowledge as a tool to fight the spread of AIDS.
HIV/AIDS campaign links