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Back to Press Releases main page > July 2004

CCC's Youth Workshop, Tobago

- July 3 rd & 4 th, 2004


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 CCC's research.

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.

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