Summer caravan drives forward HIV prevention efforts in Morocco
04 September 2006
Caravanning in Morocco has taken a whole new meaning with a special summer caravan travelling around the country in a quest to raise awareness about HIV prevention among young people.
Parking at some of Morocco’s most popular resorts from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts to the remote Atlas Mountains sites, the caravan has visited 19 youth campsites where more than 7000 young men and women have stayed during their holidays.
The SIDAmobile initiative’s caravan is run by the Moroccan-based organization ‘Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA’ in Morocco (ALCS) and the Ministry of State for Youth.
“In Morocco, we are very sensitized to the importance of intensifying prevention efforts towards young people because they are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection and also because they represent the future,” said President of the ALCS, Hakima Himmich.
At each stopover, the facilitators –all doctors who have been specially trained to work with young people on the issue of HIV— initiated open and frank discussions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In less than a month, the caravan distributed some 35 000 flyers on HIV and 15 000 condoms were given to young people at their request. Also more than 700 people asked for, and received, a confidential HIV test with counselling.
“It’s the first time I have done an HIV test”, said a participant of the summer camp Assilah Corniche. “There is nothing wrong about it but it’s not very common in my neighborhood to be open about sex, especially for girls.”
“It’s good to learn about HIV and how it spreads,” added another young woman in the same campsite. “Now I know how people become infected with HIV and I learned how to protect myself,” she added.
In Morocco, only an estimated 12% of women aged 15 to 24 are able to identify ways to prevent HIV. “We are trying to create an environment that enables people, especially the younger ones, overcome some of the taboo associated with sex and give them an opportunity to talk about their concerns and ask questions,” said My Ahmed Douraidi from ALCS and coordinator of the SIDAmobile initiative. “This is the first step for any HIV prevention work,” he added.
Praising this grass root prevention initiative and recognizing the importance of high level leadership and commitment, Kamal Alami from UNAIDS office in Morocco said that “HIV prevention on the ground is far more effective when programmes are tailored to audiences”.
“In Morocco, the high level support we receive creates many opportunities, such as music festivals, popular celebrations etc. that we can seize to disseminate prevention messages among young people,” he added.
The summer caravan stems from a collaborative effort between ALCS, the State Secretary for Youth and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)