Dont have an account?Sign up here
1 December 2009
ePolitix.com speaks to Alyson Lewis, health and care team leader at the British Red Cross, ahead of World Aids Day 2009.
Alyson Lewis: The survey shows that despite young people in the UK generally having a good understanding of how HIV is transmitted, this is still not translating into positive attitudes and behaviour towards others.
Eighty-five per cent of the young people surveyed correctly said that you can't get HIV from a kiss. But in spite of knowing this, a shocking 69 per cent said they would still not be willing to kiss someone with HIV.
The figures are positive in that they show we are succeeding in terms of educating young people on how HIV is transmitted. Unfortunately this understanding isn't bringing about the change we would have hoped for in terms of how young people behave and relate to people living with HIV. Sadly, stigma still persists.
The video, aimed at 15-25 year-olds, is designed to challenge young people into questioning the negative associations they hold. The stigma experienced by people living with HIV is immensely destructive and can further damage people who may already be in a vulnerable state. We need to reinforce the message that you cannot be infected by HIV from everyday contact with people who are HIV-positive. Activities such as sharing a meal or a cup, shaking hands, hugging or kissing, or attending the same workplace, school or event as someone with the virus, will not put you at risk. It also acts as a call to action to young people, as it encourages them to sign up as peer educators. The British Red Cross peer educators are young people who train and teach people their own age, covering a range of humanitarian issues, including HIV. To view the video please go to: www.redcross.org.uk/kiss
By training youth peer educators in increasing their knowledge regarding HIV and their skills in sharing that information, so that it can lead to positive behaviour changes, the Red Cross aims to helps prevent the spread of HIV and reduce the related stigma. Young people often find it easier to talk to other young people who are in similar circumstances about issues such as sex and drug use.
Equipped with the correct information and skills, Red Cross peer educators go into their communities to give young people the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and others. In the UK and across the world, the Red Cross is mobilising millions of volunteers to reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS through street rallies, TV campaigns, competitions and exhibitions.
The stigma of having HIV is a major factor in the spread of the disease. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement puts education as a central part of its HIV programmes and works closely with governments, other NGOs and local communities to reduce stigma and to put HIV issues on the public health agenda. British Red Cross has a steering group which has representatives from across the organisation and support from partner organisations working in HIV which aims to increase awareness across the organisation and reduce related stigma.
Government initiatives have an important role to play and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement works with governments in many countries to help provide care for people living with HIV, and in educating people about how to prevent HIV infection and reducing stigma surrounding the disease.
However, we know that any government interventions will only be successful if they are backed up by education and comprehensive HIV-prevention care and support services at a local level. To respond to HIV most effectively we need to work together in partnership.
In countries such as Lesotho, the British Red Cross train community volunteers to provide practical and emotional support to people living with HIV in their towns and villages. These 'Care Facilitators' are able to access their friends and neighbours with key information and resources, including supporting clients to understand more about prevention of HIV, their treatment regimes and the support required to continue treatment.