XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Using school clubs to influence behaviour modification and stigma reduction among Jamaican youths

C. Ledgister

National Aids Committee, Kingston, Jamaica

Issues: The Jamaican society has been flooded with information on safer sex practices. Despite the large input of resources and efforts geared towards behaviour change, the HIV prevalence rate remains high at 1.8% of the population (among the 15-49 age group), and alarming rates of 1% and 6% among children of the 10-14 and 15-19 age groups respectively. The Trelawny Parish AIDS Association (TPAA) believes that early interventions targeting preadolescents and adolescents to positively influence behaviour formation are critical to effectively reducing infection rates overall.
Description: A 3-year pilot project was conducted in 9 primary schools in the parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, with over 150 children between the ages of 9 and 12 years. The primary objective was comparing the attitudes of students in positive behaviour formation programmes with students who did not participate. The pilot project involved the combination of dance, drama, and song, to create an initiative dubbed “Sounds of Change”.
Lessons learned: Participants became confident in speaking about HIV/AIDS and its impacts, the power of choice, and the benefits of reduced discrimination. The techniques involved in Sounds of Change appear to be successful tools, educating not only participants and their peers, but also reaching older adolescents and parents. On average, students in the programme reported delaying sex, with some opting for, and encouraging abstinence among peers. As a result, the programme's scope has been broadened to include older youths (from 13-18 years old), through HIV Awareness Clubs launched in all 7 secondary/high schools in Trelawny.
Next steps: TPAA is working with schools to expand the programme, providing continuing support for adolescents as they mature, and adopting systems to quantitatively measure success. It is envisioned that Sounds of Change may serve as a model for national implementation, helping to permanently change the landscape of AIDS in Jamaica.


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