Youth Workshop, Tobago
- July 3 rd & 4
It is difficult to determine exactly how many persons are
infected with Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) in Tobago
because of a number of factors, the latest of which is migration
as persons who suspect they may have the virus migrate, oftentimes
to Trinidad , and return only when they are near death. Present
statistics therefore are based on those who have died with
the virus as opposed to those who live with it. The same
patterns happen with Trinidadians, who migrate to Tobago
on finding out that they are HIV positive.
Dr Adeyemi Maxwell, County Medical Officer in Tobago, for
the past six years, shared some of these startling statistics
as he facilitated a workshop on HIV/AIDS and other Sexually
Transmitted Infections, (STI'S) as part of the Caribbean
Conference of Churches (CCC), Youth HIV/AIDS prevention and
behaviour change programme, which was held in Tobago on the
3 rd and 4 th of July.
The aim of the workshop was the development of an integrated,
proactive, ecumenical network of HIV/AIDS Peer Educators
who would collaborate on various Community Advocacy Initiatives.
The workshop, which was held in conjunction with Family
Health International (FHI), took place at the Bishop's High
School, and approximately twenty participants representing
the CCC's member churches in Tobago attended.
Dr. Maxwell continued that persons migrate out of Tobago
, mainly because of distrust of the medical workers there,
who have been accused of breaking the rules of confidentiality
when it comes to the HIV status of those in their care.
Another issue that promulgates the spread of the disease,
according to Dr. Max, as he's affectionately known, is the
Seria-Monogamy factor. Dr. Maxwell explained this as the
practice of being faithful to one partner at a time, but
having intercourse with each of these partners.
This behavioural pattern, along with the commercial sex
industry in Tobago , has altogether contributed to the spread
of the virus, with indications that as many as one in five
persons are currently living with the virus.
Dr. Maxwell also urged the participants to note that while
AIDS is given the most attention, it was not the deadliest
of sexually transmitted infections, as he referred to Hepatitis
B, in one instance and Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, in another.
That virus which manifests itself most times in cancer, he
stressed could not be prevented by the use of a condom.
Sr. Julie Peters was another facilitator on the weekend,
and she touched on self-awareness and sexuality. In her discussion
on self-awareness Sr. Julie pointed out that positive self-esteem
was a basic human need, and that "people can't give you
self-esteem." " People can only create an environment
for good or bad self esteem ." She continued that "you
give yourself self-esteem."
During her sexuality talk, participants were introduced
to an interesting fact: that fantasy is the content of your
sexual health, since it gives you vital information about
yourself and sexuality. This generated much discussion as
many admitted that they were always taught that fantasy was
bad. Persons were then invited to take part in an exercise
where they had to identify from where they received information
about sexuality and what was the information they received
from the various sources.
It was interesting to note that few persons admitted to
receiving any knowledge on sexuality from their churches,
and that the majority of persons had received information
about sex and sexuality from the media or from friends. All
the information was documented and then collated for the
The workshop is the beginning of a one year project with
the peer educators in which the CCC will be engaging. On
the last day of the workshop, participants took part in a
brainstorming process to submit their ideas on a way forward
as well as planning for their community activities.
The most impacting session for most was undoubtedly the
testimonies of persons living with HIV/AIDS. This gave all
the issues discussed on the weekend a human face. Many participants
at that time extended their support to them. It was also
helpful that at least one of the persons living with HIV
was able to spend time with the group assisting it in coming
up with action plans for a way forward. This was a welcome
gesture especially in light of the fact that many HIV programmes
have been blasted for failing to include persons living with
HIV/AIDS as part of them.