Community Media/CCMW/Materials/Good practices/AIDSandYou
HIV and AIDS is an ISSUE
Let us address it TOGETHER!
AIDS and You: Toco Youth and Sexuality Project
Over the period of its existence the Toco Foundation through the Toco Youth and Sexuality Project (TYSP), has developed and has been acknowledged for its work in the field of HIV/AIDS. It was designed by Michael Als, the then Coordinator and current Projects Director of Toco Foundation with assistance from Dr. Uli Wagner, Epidemiologist attached to CAREC/GTZ. Moreover, it was designed to meet the basic needs of the community facing the threat of HIV/AIDS.
The Toco Youth and Sexuality Project (TYSP) has been in existence for the last nine (9) years. Thus far the project has been able to reach approximately 70% of the entire youth population on the Toco coast both in-school and out-of –school cutting across race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender. The project itself is very inclusive, with the peer educators themselves involved in the project coming from these various groups Eight (8) Peer Workers / Educators under the leadership of a Director are engaged in services of, radio programming, information sharing, lectures, interactive presentations and frontline counselling. In 2001, TYSP received the Commonwealth Foundation’s Award of Excellence in the field of HIV/AIDS among young people in the entire 54 members of the Commonwealth. This was an important juncture in the life of the organization, community and project. The TYSP has also been developed as a UNAIDS ‘best practice’.
The team at the Toco Foundation continued to develop internal capacity and in 2002 did a comprehensive capacity building training programme under the auspices of the National AIDS Programme. Intensive training modules and conceptual framework activities continue to date.
Over the period, the TYSP has developed community and school programmes as well as radio programmes, broadcast on Radio Toco 106.7FM, (our community radio station) to reach the widest possible target population. Through our house to house programme the Peer Workers have visited over 1061 households in 13 villages. Through our school programmes every primary and secondary school was visited thereby reaching over 2,000 young persons between the ages 6 to 19 from Matelot to Matura.
The Project thus far has created a high level of awareness among the young people aged 8 to 25 years in the 13 rural villages, in the County of St. David, with Peer Workers acting as the catalysing force of the Project. Requests for presentations and counselling have increased exceedingly since the beginning of the project.
Although the focus of the Project continues to target youth, the process of negotiating with adults who act as the gatekeepers to youth participation in many activities in rural Trinidad and Tobago has been very successful. The Peer Workers have negotiated with parents, school teachers, health care providers, community leaders, sports organisers, church leaders etc, for youth participation.
The aim is to create a social environment, which will enable young people to develop an informed, healthy and responsible sexual lifestyle. This includes the capacity to protect themselves against undesired outcomes of sexual activities such as HIV and AIDS and other STIs and unwanted pregnancies. The socio-economic background suggests a more aggressive and targeted focus to facilitate the end result objective of behavioural change and to this extent the outcome is enhanced by the project’s various activities
Community based approaches in HIV and AIDS prevention education are viable strategies in empowering groups through involvement and participation. The approach has grounded the project in communities adopted by using the existing structures such as schools, churches, women/youth groups, village councils to ensure acceptability and ownership also fosters broad-based involvement and participation.
It is specifically set out to encourage and support involvement and participation of institutions/ community groups/ agencies individuals to use community resources to increase HIV and AIDS prevention. The intervention models adopted in the implementation of the project are culturally appropriate and age group based peer to peer sharing of information because of the sensitive nature of sexual content of prevention behaviour which can be embarrassing when shared with mixed age groups.
The informal modes of information dissemination on a one to one basis are reinforced by the use of media (electronic / print – community newspaper) other printed materials, murals, workshops / seminars, movies and video presentations. Behaviour change is further measured using established tools (knowledge base surveys etc.) to consolidate data and information requirements to further assess the work and influence its outcome.
- To contribute to the reduction in vulnerability to HIV /AIDS/STI’s by building capacity of communities and strengthening strategic alliances with other key stakeholders to develop and scale up effective and sustainable responses to HIV and AIDS and other Sexual Transmitted Infections.
- To develop and scale-up effective HIV prevention by building technical capacity on HIV/AIDS/STI’s of community entities.
- To increase the role of community entities to play a key part in a civil society response to HIV/AIDS/STI’s.
- To improve the effectiveness of the community HIV and AIDS responses by identifying and sharing good practice and lessons learnt.
The strategies employed to obtain these objectives are namely:
- Introduction of behaviour change interventions targeted at youths
- Implementation of a comprehensive Peer Education and Advocacy Programme via several mediums
In order to achieve the above objectives, the following activities were undertaken:
- Development and dissemination of comprehensive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material
- Strengthening CSO’s /NGO’s and others capacity and responses to work with community entities through training in planning, skill development, media development (production of radio programmes), information gathering, awareness raising and counselling.
- Implementing peer outreach activities
- Condom distribution and demonstration of use;
- Collective mobilization for advocacy
- Promotion of safe sex mechanisms and methodologies
- Increase awareness and knowledge of infected and affected communities by implementing mutual support and risk reduction skills building activities
- Engaging activist in event promotion activities
- Consolidating the networking of activities in the targeted areas.
The above activities contribute to a more unswerving interactions taking place, hence leading to the desired positive behavioural changes in sexual lifestyles and improved sexual health i.e. increased knowledge about safer sexual practices and participation in such behaviours, decreased teenage pregnancies, increased discussions with parents and elders regarding matters of sexual health, HIV/AIDS/STD prevention, decreased inclination to begin sexual activity early, increased knowledge about service providers among other things.
However, to obtain an informed response the community activist / peer educators / workers must themselves be conversant with issues related to HIV and AIDS and the social reality surrounding same. Exposure to data and research facilitates awareness and develop capacity for programme delivery
Training therefore is done through the establishment of a common syllabus including elements used for training personnel with a unified approach to data, information and method. Topics include:
- HIV and AIDS epidemiology
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Information Sharing; Lectures; Interactive Discussions; Presentations and Frontline Counselling
- Gender Issues
- Evaluation of Risk Behaviour of STIs and HIV and AIDS
- Analysis of Risk Behaviour in the Community
- Analysis of the role of stakeholders in prevention efforts
Our experience is that greater density of participation by youths in all aspects of engagement assists the sustainability, even though the possibility of drop outs always exists. Moreover, successful participation increases the distribution of both information and response and gives the activity a sense of continuity especially when the participants request follow-up or more.
Toco Foundation’s Youth and Sexuality Project, (the focal point) acts as a direct liaison between the targeted audience in the communities / schools and the project.
Results and Community Participation
The project includes People living with HIV and AIDS, not just as tokens, but they are incorporated in its programme of activities from designing, implementing and monitoring and also included in the training sessions, both as trainers and trainees. Regular consultations and discussions are held with the various religious leaders, principals, teachers and community leaders and particularly with the young people in the community. It is based on these consultations that programmes and specific interventions are designed and implemented. The main reason for the success and impact of the project has been its ability to involve all the stakeholders from the community at all levels of programming.
The Toco community is serviced by the only community radio stations, “Radio Toco 106.7FM”. Information to the community is disseminated through this means. In addition to the various news programmes, project information is also disseminated through three (3) special programmes entitled “AIDS and You”; “Lifestyle, Young Adults and Sexuality” and “Focus on the Family” to a lesser extent. The radio programmes are produced and presented by members of the project TYSP in association with Radio Toco’s personnel.
There are a number of important outputs from this project, all of which contribute to a positive community response to HIV and AIDS. Some outputs include:
- The consolidation of consciousness and action in the community
- Identification of community needs (at the base level) that influenced both programmatic content and community action
- A cadre of trained HIV and AIDS community based activists available for rapid response
- An increased coverage of targeted communities in both advocacy and prevention of HIV and AIDS
- A powerful community based network on HIV and AIDS established
- The engagement of professionals for research in the areas implementation, monitoring and evaluation