Outreach Program Educates Haitian Youth on HIV/AIDS, STDs
Efforts to bring messages of safe sex and AIDS prevention to Haiti's youth are expanding through a variety of school and youth outreach programs, the Palm Beach Post reports. The Foundation for Reproductive Health and Family Education has "take[n] the lead" in providing sex education information through its youth outreach program, which includes a network of youth facilitators who visit schools and neighborhoods inviting young people to educational seminars and youth clubs. Teens first attend an educational seminar, where they are "bombarded" with statistics and information on AIDS, STDs and teen pregnancy. After completing the course, the teens join the youth clubs, which hold weekly meetings that begin with a "short, frank message" about sexual health and then devote the rest of the time to social activities such as photography classes or theater groups. But the foundation has chosen not to limit its message to children enrolled in school, since "a huge percentage" of teens cannot afford to attend school. The organization also sends counselors into poor rural communities and urban areas to bring sex education messages to "poor girls who might fall into lives of prostitution." Foundation Director Dr. Fritz Moise said, "The poor in Haiti have traditionally had no access to family planning. There's a vicious cycle of children having children, then going into prostitution because they are ostracized by their families. Once they are prostitutes, they soon are infected with HIV." The group runs a clinic for prostitutes that gives the women counseling and sex education, along with classes on job skills. The foundation was recently awarded a $1.2 million grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its outreach efforts. Health experts believe that outreach programs for young people are especially important in Haiti, which has the highest AIDS rate outside of Africa. Of the 500,000 HIV-positive individuals in the Caribbean, more than 200,000 are from Haiti (Williams, Palm Beach Post, 3/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.