Notwithstanding the political turmoil that has persisted in the southern Africa nation of Zimbabwe, the 29th of June 2019 was a busy day for eight secondary schools and a college in Harare as a symposium on AHAPPY happened. It was put together jointly by the Integral Youth Development and Roosevelt Girls High school guided by AJAN’s AHAPPY Programme.
St Dominic’s Chishawasha, Goromonzi High School, Heritage High School, Cherutombo High School, Dzivarasekwa High School, Bernard Mzeki College, Allan Wilson Boys High, Churchhill Boys High YAA clubs were all hosted by Roosevelt Girls High school with 122 students congregating. There were 56 girls and 66 boys in attendance.
The theme of the seminar was “Ride for Hope – Empowering the girl child in HIV Prevention” presented opportunity for a myriad of issues regarding HIV and AIDS to be discussed and learnt. The event also happened as Roosevelt YAA club celebrated the day of African Child annual day.
The organizers laced the day’s program with entertainment in order to enhance effective education for the young people in attendance even as discussions and presentations were involved. Various Clubs were allowed to showcase their activities they undertake in prevention of the HIV and AIDS bane.
The World Health Organization and the Nurses Association, Zimbabwe sent representatives to the meeting who aided discussions besides making captivating presentations.
Cultural practices that put the girl child at risk
Mr. Julius Batanai Chiremba of the Nurses Association unpackaged his message ‘Cultural Practices that put the Girl Child at Risk’ which he trusts have not had adequate attention from the world. He helped the students to appreciate that; child marriages, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Home Births and abstinence of people from formal institutional medical treatment and inspired them to consider these issues more profoundly and consider ways of intervention.
The practice of using herbal treatment as opposed to ARVs by Zimbabweans and traditional beliefs have been escalating. For instance, the belief that HIV can be healed if a victim has sex with a ‘pure’ figure such as a prophet or religious leaders is common which among others puts the girl child at risk. Julius would end his presentation with a question and answer session.
Dr. Mabaya from the WHO focused on the matter of awareness creation on HIV and AIDs whereby he unveiled statistics on how the youth in Zimbabwe are affected by HIV and AIDS as well as myths and misconceptions about the disease.
He would respond to questions regarding; the origins of HIV, false and true ways of HIV transmission, safety of sero-discordant relationships, taking antiretroviral drugs, and also the progress in medical research thus far towards achieving a cure for HIV. Dr. Mabaya was more than happy to respond to all these questions from a specialist viewpoint and challenged the participants with questions of his own, which were especially helpful in assessing how much they had learnt and also assessing their general knowledge about the menace.
Performances from the clubs; singing, dancing and poetry punctuated the afternoon session. Most notable was a touching poem from a physically challenged student from Cherutombo High YAA club, which narrated the woes of disability; stigma, discrimination, exclusion and pity, but at the same time advocating for a refreshed perspective on people living with disabilities in the face of HIV/AIDS.
Up to date information is critical in the fight against HIV and AIDS
The WHO’s presentation proved that there still exists a big gap in HIV/AIDS information amongst young people and this has had serious damages. Through the symposium, the participant’s acknowledged the importance of possessing up to date and relevant information in order to successfully fight new HIV infections. HIV/AIDS knowledge was broadened, equipping them with the necessary knowledge to safeguard themselves and the people around them from HIV infection and associated issues.
Building on Gospel values and on the long and respected pedagogical tradition of the Jesuits, AHAPPY aims first of all at integral development, to equip young Africans with the knowledge, skills and values to develop their potential and to be healthy and happy people capable of withstanding HIV.
Below: a pictorial presentation of the event