Bashy Bus Mobile HIV Prevention Clinic Expands
KINGSTON, February 2010 – Children First, with support from UNICEF, has added a new “Bashment Bus” to provide children and young people in communities in St. Ann, St. Mary and St. James with key HIV prevention services.
The Bashy Bus, as it is affectionately called, is a colourfully decorated bus packed with youth facilitators and peer educators. The bus travels to rural and inner-city communities making stops at key popular “hang-out” spots frequented by hard-to-reach adolescents and young people in inner-city and deep rural communities of the parishes of St. Ann, St. Catherine and St. James.
Among these vulnerable young people are teenaged mothers and school drop outs who are unemployed and often without adequate education or skills for income generation. These young people are highly influenced by negative examples in their communities and are prone to risky sexual activity, particularly unprotected sex with multiple partners and transactional sex.
Using music, dance and drama to attract attention, Bashy Bus’ peer educators, known as the Bashy Bus Kru engage young people in conversations about their sexual reproductive health, especially as it concerns their vulnerability to HIV infection. These conversations include imparting valuable information and skills around sexual decision making, risk reduction including condom use and delaying sexual initiation.
There is a facility for confidential counseling with a trained professional on the bus and also access to voluntary confidential counseling and testing (VCCT) for HIV. All these services are provided in an adolescent friendly, non-threatening manner.
The Bashy Bus provides services that are complementary to the services provided by the formal health system and it works in tandem and with support from UNICEF and the National HIV/STI Control Programme of the Ministry of Health.
The idea of launching this service came about after studies by a number of agencies including UNICEF and the National Family Planning Board confirmed that risky sexual behaviour was taking place between young people and transport operators and also that very often, sexual activities were being carried out on buses and in taxis.
In assessing the feasibility of the mobile service, the young people interviewed thought that the “Bashment Bus” would turn a negative into a positive. The Bashy Bus is one of the strategies supported by UNICEF to scale up prevention efforts among vulnerable adolescents. Since the time it started rolling, over 35,000 people in the target communities have been reached with quality HIV prevention information and skills and some 3,000 adolescents and young people have accessed voluntary and confidential counseling and testing.