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Young educators take the AIDS message to schools

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/Nadchatram
AIESEC Youth Peer Educator, Geraldine Sandra Sebastian (extreme right) hopes to see girls empowered to make healthy choices for HIV prevention.

By Su-May Tan and Indra Nadchatram

KUALA LUMPUR, 10 November 2007 – While girls across the country geared up for the 3R-UNICEF All Women’s Futsal Playoffs, another kind of action took place in school halls in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur.

Led by peer educators from AIESEC Malaysia and hosted by UNICEF Malaysia’s Goodwill Ambassadors, the 3R TV hosts (from popular local TV series Respect, Relax, Respond), a series of education workshops, supported by Manchester United FC through its United for UNICEF partnership, were organised to bring HIV and AIDS awareness messages to teenage girls. 

“Girls tend to be at higher risk of HIV infection than boys,” says Geraldine Sandra Sebastian, an AIESEC youth peer educator who has been championing the AIDS cause over the past three years. “This is partly because girls are more likely to be pressured into having sex and less likely to be able to control with whom, when and how they have sex.”

Geraldine who is also President of AIESEC in Malaysia, see these Workshops as an important step forward and stresses the need to provide young girls with all the necessary help, education and skills that will protect them from HIV infection.

Social norms put girls at greater risk of HIV

As in most parts of the world, young people in Malaysia account for an increasing number of HIV infections every year.  The Ministry of Health’s December 2006 statistics reveal that 37.12% of people living with HIV in Malaysia are adolescents and youth aged between 13 to 29 years old while infections amongst women and girls are also growing dramatically. In 1990, out of every 83 cases reported, one was female. By 2006 that figure rose to one in seven.   

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/Nadchatram
UNICEF Malaysia Goodwill Ambassador and 3R TV host Celina Khor joins the game to teach teenage girls about HIV and AIDS.

According to UNICEF Malaysia Goodwill Ambassador and 3R TV host Celina Khor, social attitudes to sex and sex education sometimes make it more difficult for girls to get the information they need to protect themselves from the virus.

“Prevention programs aimed at young women and girls need to realistically address the topic of sexual relations, condoms and protection.  Young women often are affected by a number of social factors -- sexism, sexual assault and abuse, and rape -- that diminish their level of self-respect and confidence in asking their partner to wear a condom” she elaborates.

Making HIV learning fun

At a Workshop held in early November, the team from AIESEC Malaysia, 3R and UNICEF delivered education to hundreds of young girls using entertainment, quizzes and games. 

For any onlookers who might question if these school girls might be too young for a talk on AIDS or condoms or sexual relationships, the girls’ ‘come-hither’ moves reveal a healthy exposure to MTV, partying and another life outside school walls.

While the games produce laughter and cheers from the crowd, the messages behind them are serious: HIV does not discriminate; and careless and irresponsible actions like unprotected sex will help the smart virus win its battle against the young.

“You don’t get HIV from drugs but from sharing contaminated needles. You don’t get HIV from sex but from unprotected sex with an infected person, explains Geraldine. “You have to be very sensitive to what you’re saying. The objective is not to moralise and judge certain behaviour but to raise awareness about the dangers these actions can have on our lives.”

While the workshops enabled the girls to embrace the subject, it also taught them how to get protected and what they can do to play a greater role in the HIV and AIDS response in Malaysia.

Hope for greater empowerment

Geraldine’s main hope is to see the girls empowered.  “Girls need to be encouraged to value and protect themselves. Prevention programs need to address these issues and equip adolescent and adult young women with the confidence and knowledge to make healthy decisions about themselves and HIV,” she adds.

The young activist who felt drawn to the AIDS cause after meeting several people living with HIV over the years is optimistically confident that there will be a new generation of young girls who are not afraid to step forward, and be proactive to prevention, rather than reactive.

“It’s been baby steps so far,” says Geraldine. “But I believe this will change.”


Present in over 1100 universities in over 100 countries and territories, AIESEC, the world's largest student run organisation, is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact in society.
In Malaysia, AIESEC provides young people a space to work on issues like HIV and AIDS with the aim to educate and increase awareness amongst young people; to influence behavioral change amongst students; and to promote healthy living and meaningful life that will result in a reduction in the number of young people involved in risky behaviors. In partnership with UNICEF and the Football Association of Malaysia, AIESEC youth took on an additional role in 2007 to educate teenagers from the FAM "First Touch Football Program" and the “3R-UNICEF All Women’s Futsal Playoffs 2007” about HIV and AIDS.





3R-UNICEF All Women's Futsal Playoffs 2007

World AIDS Day 2007

1 December 2007

United for UNICEF

Unite against AIDS

The Malaysian Launch
  (with )

The AIDS Response


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