HIV/AIDS

Adolescent Health and Empowerment

Talkup Yout' School Tours

 

Blog from young Jamaicans learning about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care during study tour of Brazil

Jamaican and Brazilian teens join forces in the response to HIV/AIDS

October 10, 2006

We are Kerrel, Yannick, Nicholas, Jason and Fabian – the Jamaican crew sponsored by UNICEF Jamaica to visit Brazil to exchange ideas and meet young people, just like us, who are actively involved in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Before leaving our home country, Jamaica, we all thought we would die from anxiety.  We had heard so much about Brazil – the land of Samba, football, cute boys and hot girls!!!!   However, the 11 hours we spent on three different airplanes to get here made it seem as if the journey would never end and our dreams of becoming “Brazillianaires” would never come true.

But finally, we landed in Salvador, Brazil and it was definitely worth the wait! We were greeted by a shower of rain.  Our UNICEF Brazil hosts told it was the first rain shower in a long time and they were worried that the rain would spoil our arrival.  For us it was NO PROBLEM because back a “yaad,” in Jamaica, rain is considered to be a good sign and a blessing from heaven.  On the way to the hotel, we were fascinated by some really tightly packed houses on the hillsides of some lower income areas and also by the fact that most of the people here are of African heritage.  Already it felt like home. 

Our hosts from UNICEF Brazil were really cool.  The travel from the airport was smooth and the hotel we were booked in was crazy (good)!  Marie Pierre, the UNICEF Representative for Brazil, made time to join us and take us to dinner to sample traditional Brazilian food!  We wrapThe final day

We spent our last day of official duties at the Vivendo Jovem Conference in Rio de Janeiro. We participated in a discussion on ways of dealing with issues that are of real importance to young people who are both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.    They included stigma and discrimination, sexuality and adhering to medication.

All of these issues are very familiar to us.  From our group, some are HIV positive and others of us have had a parent who died from AIDS or have a parent living with HIV.

What have we learnt from our trip to Brazil?  We think it can be summed in one sentence:
Adolescents and young people in Jamaica must organize themselves and have a strong voice in efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS among their peer group. 

Too often adults are making decisions for us without our involvement and our team wants this to change and we are determined to make a difference.  We will also take information back to each of our organizations (we are all attached to various NGO) in Jamaica.  We plan to advocate for young people from the various NGOs to unite and find solutions for our own problems.

Now we have to say farewell to Brazil and all our friends here.  We are heading home with lots of great memories, a new vision for our involvement in the fight against AIDS and dreams of returning some day.

Overall everything was, as we say in Jamaica, OUT and BAD! (- which means really cool) To our Brazilian hosts and our new friends – we won’t say goodbye, just see you next time.  Trust us, we soon come back!
ped the night up way past our bedtime at around midnight.

October 11, 2006

Today kicked off with a crazy breakfast on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Pestana in Salvador de Bahia.  The view was wicked!!!!   Our own paparazzo, Nicholas, was snapping photos of the amazing view of the city. We had planned to meet at 8:30am, but the always fashionably late members of the crew (Fabian and Jason), made us leave 15 minutes behind schedule.  It’s a good thing our hosts knew we were still operating on “Jamaica time”.  

Now it was time to get busy and we were off to the first stop on our study tour at GAPA – a non-governmental organization that supports HIV prevention, support and care.  We were touched by the story of a 19 year old young man who is living with HIV.  Even though some members of his family know his status, he does not have the support of his friends. What is even worse, is the fact that this young man confessed that he did not take his medication regularly and seemed frustrated by the fact that he didn’t have people his own age to understand his situation.   His story motivated our crew member Jason to share his own struggles of living with HIV and encouraged our new Brazilian friend to stay on his medication. This was a really powerful session.

From there we moved on to GAPA headquarters where we were warmly received and truly entertained by GAPA’s hip hop group.  We also got a really special treat when Brazilian superstar Daniela dropped by to spend some time with us.  She spoke about the importance of using music to inform young people about issues like HIV prevention.   That whole session was off the hook!!!

We moved on to an historic section of Salvador, where we met the crew from the Reference Centre for Adolescents (CRIA).  There we were exposed to Afro Brazilian culture through drama and song, touching a lot of issues related to youth sexuality, reproductive health, rights and HIV prevention.  We got some great gifts.  Now it’s off to bring some Jamaican "flava" to downtown Salvador. Check in tomorrow. ONE LOVE!

The final day

We spent our last day of official duties at the Vivendo Jovem Conference in Rio de Janeiro. We participated in a discussion on ways of dealing with issues that are of real importance to young people who are both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.    They included stigma and discrimination, sexuality and adhering to medication.

All of these issues are very familiar to us.  From our group, some are HIV positive and others of us have had a parent who died from AIDS or have a parent living with HIV.

What have we learnt from our trip to Brazil?  We think it can be summed up in one sentence:
Adolescents and young people in Jamaica must organize themselves and have a strong voice in efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS among their peer group. 

Too often adults are making decisions for us without our involvement and our team wants this to change and we are determined to make a difference.  We will also take information back to each of our organizations (we are all attached to various NGO) in Jamaica.  We plan to advocate for young people from the various NGOs to unite and find solutions for our own problems.

Now we have to say farewell to Brazil and all our friends here.  We are heading home with lots of great memories, a new vision for our involvement in the fight against AIDS and dreams of returning some day.

Overall everything was, as we say in Jamaica, OUT and BAD! (- which means really cool) To our Brazilian hosts and our new friends – we won’t say goodbye, just see you next time.  Trust us, we soon come back!

 

 
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