Using games to prevent HIV among indigenous youth in Guatemala
18 April 2011
More than 1000 indigenous children and adolescents aged 9 to 15 years old from rural communities of Guatemala learned about HIV in the 5th Rolling Fair called More information, less infection. The initiative, which took place in San Pedro Yepocapa, was organized by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Comunicares, with support from local authorities, the ministry of education, the municipality, public schools, and the children’s parents.
"Before I came to the fair I knew nothing about HIV. Now I have learned that HIV and AIDS are not the same thing, and also that we are very young for sex," said a 10 year old student looking to her friend as she tried to recall more information, "Ah! And that our body is only ours and no one can touch it.”
The event was part of a broader project “HIV prevention for vulnerable populations: rural, indigenous and sexually diverse” supported by UNAIDS with financial grants from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
UNAIDS Project Coordinator Ms Pilar Marín highlighted that the project is a great opportunity to reach people, especially children and youth in the rural areas of Guatemala who have not had access to HIV information. "In Guatemala and specifically among the rural and indigenous populations, HIV is often perceived as a taboo. Through the project we are enhancing skills and knowledge to achieve a change in the behaviour of young people, to avoid risky practices," said Ms Marín.
Through the project we are enhancing skills and knowledge to achieve a change in the behaviour of young people, to avoid risky attitudes and practices
UNAIDS Project Coordinator Ms Pilar Marín
From 8 am until 6 pm students travelled through an educational and creative journey to learn about HIV. The Rolling Fair is an innovative initiative that consists of a train with 11 illustrative wagons. Each wagon provides information, entertainment and fun games related to themes such as modes of HIV transmission and ways to prevent HIV infection, sexual education, understanding of stigma and discrimination, as well as prevention of violence towards children, especially girls.
"The aim is that children learn through teenagers living in their own community and speak their own language. This fair also includes training for teachers and parents," remarked Oneida Rodas, Director of Comunicares.
The Dutch Ambassador Jan-Jaap van de Velde and UNAIDS Country Coordinator Enrique Zelaya also participated in the fair. They then traveled to San Juan Comalapa to take part in another event organized by the Association of Community Health Services (ASECSA). This initiative brought together 200 young students between 15 and 18 years of age from public institutions to participate in dynamic workshops and HIV awareness-raising talks as well as a play.
These activities have provided young people in this municipality with information about HIV prevention which is complementing the sexual and reproductive education received at school. According to government data, in 2009 only 23% of young people age 15 – 24 years old knew how to correctly identify ways of preventing sexual transmission of HIV and reject major misconceptions about HIV transmission.