XVIII International AIDS Conference

Abstract

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Dominican “street” youth as stakeholders of HIV and violence prevention in marginalized communities

L.A. Jimenez1, L. Arturo Castro2, S. Caro3, A.M. Navarro3, T. De Moya4

1Fundacion Red de Jovenes Unidos de Guachupitas-FURJUG, Gerencia, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic, 2Red de Jóvenes de Guachupita, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 3Onusida, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 4Copresida, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Issues: HIV prevention with male and female adolescent and youth populations in the Dominican Republic (DR) has been traditionally focused on formal education. No efforts have been made to reach vulnerable youth groups that frequently abandon school at an early age, including members of youth gangs in marginalized neighborhoods.
Description: In 2004 the Presidential Council on AIDS (COPRESIDA) supported a 2-year pilot HIV prevention strategy in the lower class community of Guachupita (National District) with participation of 16 street organizations, including some transnational “Nations” such as Latin Kings, The 42, and The Blood. Their members received extensive training in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI), and promoted HIV prevention messages through workshops, informative talks, condom distribution, artistic graffiti, hip-hop concerts, marches and family gatherings in their community. All activities were planned and implemented by the youth, with COPRESIDA's technical and financial support. Joint HIV prevention efforts have led to peaceful solutions of violent territorial conflicts between street gangs, and resulted in the creation of Fundación Red de Jóvenes Unidos de Guachupita (FURJUG), a community-based organization integrated and directed by Guachupita's “street” youth.
Lessons learned: FURJUG has sustained and expanded HIV and violence prevention activities in Guachupita despite COPRESIDA's sporadic support, and is currently a legally recognized civil society stakeholder at community, national and international levels. The acknowledgment of previously stigmatized “street” youth as key agents for constructive social change in their communities has had a highly positive impact not only on HIV prevention but also on sustainable reduction of youth violence in Guachupita and neighboring communities.
Next steps: FURJUG needs further institutional strengthening in order to be able to access new funding sources and expand the benefits of their interventions - including the promotion of health-oriented behaviors and the prevention of violence - to new generations of Guachupita adolescents.


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