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Day One – OneMinutesJr workshop on HIV/AIDS starts in Turkmenistan

© Chris Schuepp / UNICEF / 2008
UNICEF consultant Ahmed Babajanov introducing the HIV/AIDS theme to the workshop participants.

More than 20 young film students from the National Institute of Culture have gathered today in the Health Information Centre for the start of a OneMinutesJr workshop in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. The hands-on training is organized by UNICEF together with the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry as well as the Ministry of Culture and TV and Radio Broadcasting. In five days, the young people will write, film and edit one-minute films on a topic that is largely unknown in Turkmenistan: HIV/AIDS.

To give the film students a better idea about the current situation around HIV/AIDS in their country, UNICEF consultant Ahmed Babajanov, who is an expert on Life Skills Based Health Education, delivers an interactive introduction. The question “How is HIV spread?” already generates some interesting answers. One participant thinks the virus is spread through food and that washing your hands before eating would prevent the disease. Another one thinks it can be spread by coughing or sneezing like the flu and yet another is convinced that a woman with HIV/AIDS cannot have children. For the trainers, who come from Germany and Estonia, this lack of knowledge coming from teenagers and adolescents is hard to believe.

© Chris Schuepp / UNICEF / 2008
Getting more background on the topic: A young Turkmen participant reading about HIV/AIDS in a UNICEF publication.

So Ahmed Babajanov really has to get down to the basics in his introduction. Officially, HIV/AIDS is more or less non-existent in Turkmenistan, but still UN agencies and local health institutions know about the challenges and the risks. The numbers of infected people in the neighbouring Central Asian republics are sharply on the rise and without effective advocacy, it is only a matter of time before the disease also reaches Turkmenistan. A lack of proper information, especially among the young people in the country, would definitely make it easier for HIV/AIDS to spread across the borders.

In the early afternoon, the participants have to present their ideas to the trainers. And it soon becomes clear what is a regional fact here in Central Asia: Drugs play a huge role in the spread of the virus. Dirty needles are responsible for many of the recorded cases in countries like Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Many of the participants also focus on the fatal use of drugs in their film ideas.

Traditionally, talking about relationships between men and women is off-topic, but the trainers are still hopeful to stimulate more story ideas on this topic as the workshop continues.

Chris Schuepp – Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – September 30, 2008



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