AIDS Protection In A Bus: Jamaica launches mobile service for 5,000 young people
CHILDREN FIRST, THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH, UNICEF AND THE GLOBAL FUND ON HIV/AIDS TO BRING URGENTLY-NEEDED INFORMATION AND SERVICES TO THOUSANDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN HARD-TO-REACH JAMAICAN COMMUNITIES
Spanish Town, Jamaica, 16 September 2005 - Children First, the popular community based organization in Spanish Town, on 13 September 2005 has launched an innovative mobile service that will get out the word on HIV/AIDS and encourage responsible sexual decision-making among thousands of young people across Jamaica.
Dubbed the “Bashment Bus” (party bus), a colourfully decorated bus packed with youth facilitators and peer educators will travel to rural towns in the parishes of St. Catherine, St. Ann and St. James, stopping at popular “hang-outs”, using music and drama to attract attention, disseminate key messages, promoting condom use or the delay in sexual initiation. An estimated 5,000 young people will also be provided with clinical and counseling services in an adolescent friendly, confidential and non-threatening manner.
The service was officially launched by the Mayor of Spanish Town, His Worship, Councillor Andrew Wheatley with other speakers being Mrs. Claudette Richardson-Pious, Executive Director of Children First, Dr Figueroa Director, Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, Jason, a young man who has been positively living with HIV/AIDS since the age of 12 and now an advocate and outreach officer, and Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative, at the amphitheatre of the Life of Jamaica Shopping Centre in Spanish Town. A second launch was hosted in Montego Bay on 15 September by the Deputy Mayor of that city, Councillor Cecil Davies and an orphan by AIDS and now young advocate from the Porland AIDS Committee, Ms Kerril McKay.
“The idea of launching this service came about after studies by Youth.now, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the National Family Planning Board confirmed that risky sexual behaviour between young people and transport operators is widespread. In assessing the feasibility of a mobile clinic, the young people we spoke with thought that a “bashment bus” would turn a negative into a positive”, stated Mrs. Claudette Richardson-Pious, Executive Director of Children First.
“Over the past three months, we have been facilitating training sessions, research and conducting test runs at various locations where young people gather, to ensure that we have the relevant information necessary to have a real impact”, she explained.
The Bashment Bus is one of the strategies supported by UNICEF to scale up prevention efforts involving vulnerable young people, who would not otherwise access the information and services they need, including confidential rapid testing - a first for young people in Jamaica. The mobile clinic will be featured in the forthcoming Global Campaign on Children and AIDS, in which Jamaica will be playing a leading role. Under the slogan “Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS”, the campaign highlights the too-often missed face of children affected by the pandemic. Its goal is to bring to the forefront of everybody’s agenda the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and scale up interventions in primary prevention, mother-to-child transmission, paediatric treatment, and the provision of care, support and protection for children.
The Bashment Bus is being implemented with funds provided by the UN Global Fund on HIV/AIDS through the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
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