XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Building a supportive environment for teenagers in rural central Honduras to adopt HV prevention behaviors and be role models for other teens

L. van Vuuren1, R.D. Romero2

1Medical Teams International, International Programs/Technical Services, Lake Oswego, OR, United States, 2Proyecto Aldea Global, Juventud Con Vision, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Issues: Rural cultural patterns that prevent discussions about sex between parents and children, teens seen as trouble makers/not respected in community, low self esteem, low risk perception when sex is with others from community, health system not youth friendly discouraging youth from testing and accessing information and condoms; religious and educational institutions not well equipped to address issues of teen sexuality and HIV prevention.
Description: A three person team at Youth with a Vision works with 2000 teens in 3 municipalities in rural Central Honduras to promote life skills and behaviors that will prevent HIV. Using a peer education model the program focuses on building trust with teens, promoting transparency, and allowing vulnerability. Staff focus on teen's positive qualities and strengths engendering mutual respect. Thirty highly committed volunteer teen peer educators are treated as colleagues in planning and executing training and mentoring activities, research studies and community events.
Peer educators star in local drama and music presentations and video “edutainment programs” broadcast in the region, raising their status as trend-setters. The program also works with parents of youth, teachers, local religious leaders, and other members of civil society to improve youth support and adult to youth communication.
Lessons learned: Trust relationships and respect for teens is the key to successful youth prevention programs. Suspending judgment, creating a safe environment where youth can express themselves, appreciating, encouraging and valuing youth, engenders mutual respect, increases self worth and leads to more responsible behaviors and life choices that prevent HIV. Youth self-select prevention behaviors, build character and leadership skills and become role models for prevention to other youth. Encouraging parents, educators and religious leaders to better understand and support youth realities enhances long term behavior change
Next steps: Document and expand program model to other regions with similar needs, demographics and risk factors.


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