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Kavitha Dispatch

Serious Answers to Serious Questions: A youth group dealing with AIDS

For the past many years we've all heard a great deal about AIDS and what a huge problem it is worldwide. We've all heard terrible stories about HIV and IV drug use. Terms like 'safe-sex' have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. But how much do you really know about this global issue? Now's the time to find out:

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These are just some of the pamphlets the youth help distribute
Caption

Monica and I went to see a high school AIDS competition over the weekend. The best of the best from the AIDS Action Clubs from eight different schools around Bulawayo gathered to test their knowledge in this academic game that centers entirely on the AIDS issue. The winning school goes on to compete on a national level and wins over $1500 Zimbabwe Dollars for their Action Clubs.

Here are just some of the questions the teams were asked. See if you can answer them within the time limit of 15 seconds... remember no cheating!

1. Can a boy/girl get infected with a STD if he/she practices the "withdrawal method"? Support your answer.

ANSWER: Penetration has taken place and body/sexual fluids mix before full ejaculation. YES - he or she can get an STD.
 

  2. Should one share love with a person who is HIV positive? Explain

ANSWER: Yes! They need support, care, and courage to live on. There is no harm in loving.
 

  3. What are the connections between drug use and HIV/AIDS? (Name 2)

ANSWERS:

  • Sharing injection equipment leads to spread of the disease by blood left in the needle
  • Drugs lower inhibitions (self control)
  • Drugs make it difficult to practice safer sex because one has less control of one's mind
  • Drugs impair reasoning

 

  4. What does the acronym ELISA stand for?

ANSWER: Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (look it up!)
 

  5. Define Cytotoxic

ANSWER: Drugs that destroy malignant cells without harming normal tissues.


So, how many did you get right? During the high school competition we attended, there were two rounds, a preliminary and a final. "It is interesting that many questions were repeated in the second round and still answered incorrectly," notes Singatsho (youth group coordinator) in her closing remarks. "It makes me wonder, Are people really HEARING what we have to say? Are people really hearing what we have to say if they are forgetting in merely half an hour?"

It's one thing to hear all the commercials about safe sex and go through all the AIDS awareness assemblies in school, it's another to really remember them and live accordingly. As Singatsho closed out the AIDS competition: "Listen. Learn from others. From peers, from elders... everyone has something to share."

The Female Condom - The WHAT?!?

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That's me in back with the group!
Caption

Last week I was lucky enough to visit some of my new friends from the Matabeleland Aids Council (MAC) AIDS Action group while they were at a Youth Venture Camp outside of Bulawayo. Singatsho and Tshume, the coordinators of the youth group, lead camps like this throughout the year to train new peer educators from the various high schools in the area.

The Youth Venture Camp reminded me a lot of where I went to outdoor education while I was in middle school. I remember what a great time I had, staying away from home for a whole week. I could tell the youth at the venture camp were enjoying their week in a similar way. About 10 guys and 10 girls gathered to spend the week with Tshume sleeping in bunk beds, cooking meals together by a fire, and having workshops dealing with this particular camp's focus: gender.

Map of Zimbabwe

These days we all know women's rights are important, but how often do we just overlook and accept things because of habit, religion, or culture? For example, how many women do you know who initiated a first date? Or how many men do you know who regularly cook dinner for the family? Even here at the Camp, with all these gender-sensitive young men around, when it came to lunchtime, I only saw my female friends doing the chopping and stirring!

The day I visited, the venture campŐs topic had turned to the issue of condoms. Like so many other different arenas, when it comes to condoms the biggest inequality lies with the women. How many of you even know that there is a female condom? And why do you think the female condom is not as readily used or thought of as an option?

The kids at the youth group had a number of ideas as to why the inequalities exist. The most obvious explanation for why the male condom is more prevalent is because they are more easily available. "But why is that the case?" Tshume probed the group to think deeper. Many hands were raised and some realizations were shared. Here's some of what unfolded:

The male condom was the first made, and after many years it is finally being accepted. Also, when it comes to sexual issues, men have always had the final say. Even if a women wanted to take control of the situation, to be in charge of her body and health by buying a female condom, there are so many obstacles in her way. For one thing, women (especially here in Zimbabwe) often don't have access to money, the man is in control of the finances, so how can she buy the condoms? Even if she does somehow buy a female condom, it is a common thought that a woman who has a condom must be easy. If a married woman were found to be carrying a female condom, people would think she was sleeping around.

The youth decided that the female condoms should be made available for free along with male condoms. It seemed the most important step to be taken was to begin a dialogue on the subject, to start educating BOTH men and women about the female condom and how it is used. It is only through awareness and communication that something can begin to be accepted.


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