|© UNICEF Malabo/2008/ Benlloch|
|Students and peer educators from the Adventist school in Malabo are working to put an end to misconceptions about HIV and AIDS.|
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, 19 February 2008 – In a region where talking about sexuality is still taboo and where abstinence has been the exclusive means of prevention against HIV, thousands of lives are threatened due to lack of education.
“Before, talking about AIDS was like being sentenced to death or like expediting someone to hell,” said a peer educator and student named Aquilina. “I was scared because I didn’t have precise ideas. But I realized that I could share my doubts with them and that above all, I could help them.”
To undertake a successful prevention campaign, it is necessary to raise awareness about the threat of HIV infection.
Peer educators trained
Providing more information to men, women and young people in Equatorial Guinea is a goal that can only be achieved by involving all parts of the population, and communicating in all dialects.
Teenagers and women are highly susceptible to HIV. This is why a series of training sessions for women has been organized by UNICEF, the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF and the Red Cross in Equatorial Guinea. These sessions allow participants to express themselves freely on HIV/AIDS and upgrade their knowledge on prevention and treatment of the disease.
In this way, the women and girls become peer educators in schools, and on radio and television.
“In addition to common activities, each of us sensitizes his family, friends and people in our immediate environment,” said a peer educator and student named Elvira. “Therefore, messages are spreading faster than one could imagine.”
These exceptional spokespersons are working to put an end to myths, such as the idea that HIV can be transmitted through the air, sweat or mosquitoes. Peer educators encourage people to respect and treat HIV patients with dignity, and to consider the use of condoms.
“Raising the awareness of AIDS, and the importance of adopting safe behaviours, is encouraging me to keep on going,” Elvira said.