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The ‘Bashy Bus Kru' educates youths about HIV

© UNICEF Jamaica/2007/Dolan
Members of the ‘Bashy Bus Kru’ perform a song to raise HIV/AIDS awareness at the Allman Town Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica.

By Sabine Dolan

KINGSTON, Jamaica, 4 January 2008 – At the Allman Town Primary School in Kingston, students listen attentively as a group of dynamic peer educators known as the ‘Bashy Bus Kru’ dance and sing. Though the performance is lively, the topic is serious, focusing on ways for children to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS.

The UNICEF-supported Bashy (‘party’) Bus is the colourful ‘bus with a difference’ that travels to schools and communities across this island nation to impart life-saving messages.

“What I learned is that I just wouldn’t like to have that sickness,” said Devon, a 12-year-old student at Allman. 

Mobile messages for youths

In addition to its school-related activities, the bus also stops at popular youth hangouts, where the performances attract attention and disseminate key messages among young Jamaicans.

Equally important, the bus can serve as a mobile clinic providing young people with confidential HIV testing and counselling.
“HIV/AIDS is such a big problem in Jamaica,” said Bashy Bus Youth Facilitator Derrick Lawrence, who added that there is an overall lack of information in many schools, and children don’t often receive what he calls “the deep information about HIV and AIDS.”

© UNICEF Jamaica/2007/Dolan
The mobile nature of the Bashy Bus allows the 'Kru' to educate youths and encourage confidential HIV testing.

'A growing challenge'

According to UNICEF Jamaica, AIDS is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24 here. Adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are particularly vulnerable. 

“Here in Jamaica, we have a situation where we are facing a growing challenge where HIV and AIDS are concerned,” said UNICEF Jamaica HIV/AIDS specialist Novia Condell.

The Bashy Bus is a key intervention that helps to spread knowledge about HIV in a youth-friendly setting. 
Building relationships

Children First, a community-based organization in Jamaica’s Spanish Town, runs the Bashy Bus. Children First Executive Director Claudette Richardson Pious pointed out that the project has grown considerably recently. 

“We actually do HIV testing and we talk about healthy lifestyle issues, [and] do referrals to the formal health sector,” said Ms. Pious. “We also do a lot of relationship-building, especially between parents and children. In the last year, we have reached over 42,000 young people.”

Back at the Bashy Bus’s Allman Town Primary School stop, an 11-year-old student named Anastasia took in a lesson about the dangers of peer pressure. “I learned not to let your friends force you to do things that you do not want to do,” she said. 




UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on Jamaica’s 'Bashy Bus Kru', peer educators who educate other youths on HIV testing and prevention.
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