Posts Tagged 'Colombo'

Breaking the Silence

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Volunteers at the end of the programme facing for a group photo.

The First Candlelight memorial event under the banner “Together we are the solution”, a first of a series of 6 such events, which will lead up to World AIDS Day and beyond, took place last week at Excel World in Colombo. This series of events that will be implemented in 6 areas across Sri Lanka, including Anuradhapura, Kandy, Batticoloa, Negombo and Galle,  is aimed to raise awareness on Sexual and Reproductive Health, how HIV is spread, combat the stigma faced by people living with HIV, and dispel myths and misconceptions about HIV using interactive  and innovative tools using youth facilitators. The initiative funded by UNAIDS, and being implemented by a coalition that brought together 15 organizations including Positive Hopes Alliance, Lanka + (PLHIV Support organization), The Salvation Army, EQUAL GROUND, Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), AIESEC, Save Lanka Kids, Beyond Borders, Companions on a Journey, The Youth committee of the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, National Youth Coalition Sri Lanka (NYCSL), PANOS, Plan International, World Vision and The Women’s Support group.,

Posters communicating key messages dispelling myths relating to the stigma and discrimination faced by People Living with HIV (PLHIV) such as their ability to live normal lives were displayed in Excel World.

Trained youth volunteers conducted quizzes, and organised games such as risk or no risk, designed to test public knowledge and to help educate people about transmission of HIV aids. The game Risk or No Risk showed that many people had believed that a person can contract HIV through kissing an HIV+ person, or even by eating food prepared by a HIV+ chef. Many people who played were ignorant of the fact that many people contract HIV from unfaithful spouses. Participants were made aware of their misconceptions at the end of the game, and the actual modes of how HIV spreads were explained to them, as well as the measures which could be taken to stop the virus being transmitted.

Amongst the many activities conducted were a poster creation competition, where the best poster would be chosen for a programme that will be organized by UNAIDS for World Aids Day which falls on 1st December and a graffiti floor so that the shoppers could write down messages, thoughts and responses to issues such as condom use, and how they would respond if one of their friends were to contract HIV. There was also the ‘Where do you stand?’ game, in which players decided that, if anything, they would do to avoid becoming infected by HIV. Most people said that they would either try and be faithful to their partners or use condoms as a key method of protective sex.

While the morning and early afternoon saw small numbers of participants, numbers picked up significantly in the latter half of the afternoon, and despite the fact that many people had misconceptions about HIV, they were all willing to learn from the volunteers, and show support to PLHIV by wearing the AIDS red ribbon. The closing event for the days programme, candlelight memorial, commenced with innovative play examining the prejudice that PLHIV face in Sri Lanka, and outlined how the vicious cycle happens: ’Silence’, ‘ignorance’, ‘fear’, ‘stigma’, ’iscrimination’ and ‘death’, after which everyone present, including volunteers and guests alike, took part in a pledge to educate each other about the discrimination faced by PLHIV.

One of the popular celebrities, Randhir spoke about the importance of raising awareness about HIV and AIDS and ‘packaging’ these messages to young people in a way that is familiar to them, “on their IPods” in effect. He then lit the first lamp on the stage… (so and so from such organization) followed suit in remembering those who had lost their lives to HIV and AIDS, not only in Sri Lanka but across the world.

The next programme will be conducted on 26 July at the Anuradhapura. Contact Prathiba on 0715869955 or Milinda on 0772543307.

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HIV/ AIDS and globalization

I walk in to one of the famous modern looking colleges in Sri Lanka. We have only a handful, and the one I’m talking about is pretty famous for American degrees. However, generally we tend to see students from the wealthiest families in town coming in and out of this building. I had a class on HIV/AIDS and globalization for a group of 21 students who think they are the signifiers of modernity or probably Americanization.

I started the lesson asking what they have heard about HIV/AIDS. One of the students replied “a decease”. Further explaining I admitted it as a global decease of which infected rates are comparatively high in poor countries that particularly lack developed health systems. Roughly 40,000 Americans are infected every year. In 2007, UNAIDS estimated more than 1.3 million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, 33.2 million people worldwide (with 2.5 million newly infected), 22.5 million people in Sub Saharan Africa, 4.0 million in South and South East Asia, 1.6 million in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are HIV positive or have AIDS.

My methodology of teaching is through questioning; therefore I posed my second question from the class. What is HIV and AIDS? What does it mean? Surprisingly none of those ‘posh’ looking students knew about it. Hmmm!! Ok! Two years back when we were conducting HIV sensitizing workshops for young people all around the country prior to the 8th ICAAP young people in Vavuniya, a conflict effected area knew what it meant. They didn’t have access to internet, they didn’t travel all around the world for semester breaks or most of them wouldn’t have sat for GCE Ordinary Level. Yet, they knew ie. I finally had to explain. Here I go! AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is an incurable disease that destroys the patient’s immune system. AIDS is caused by infection with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids. People can become infected by HIV through sexual contact, by using needles that are contaminated with the virus, or by coming into contact with infected blood. The immune system of a person infected by HIV becomes weaker over time, and the person is less able to fight off infections; this process can take months or years. The final stage of HIV is the development of AIDS. As their immune systems collapse, people with AIDS become increasingly vulnerable to infection by a variety of life-threatening diseases.

You can find more articles on HIV and AIDS, like “a global epidemic”, “be yourself, but know your risk; HIV is deadly”, “HIV doesn’t kill people, but people does – based on a true story”, “Is AIDS a poor people’s disease?”, etc.


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