AIDS Support Group Saba Foundation in collaboration with Saba University School of Medicine (SUSOM) implemented two days of workshops for the youth of Saba Comprehensive School on March 21 and 22.
Since its establishment in 1990, ASGS Foundation has been the agency charged with the development of Saba’s Strategic Plan for HIV/ AIDS prevention and control in coordination with the Public Health Department.
Since 2008, ASGS established the Girl Power programme under its auspices, forming local community facilitators and encouraging adult female role models to be engaged in the lives of young girls. A parallel programme, “Real Men,” was created for young boys on the island, for the first time, in 2011, identifying male role models in the community to bring motivational messages and create bonds of trust that allow open communication on issues of interest for young men.
ASGS encourages adult residents, in particular parents and individuals in public leadership roles, to volunteer their time and inspire the youth to set goals and achieve their potential. The purpose of the two programmes is to train teens to deal constructively with the physical, emotional and social changes experienced during puberty and to create awareness about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and HIV transmission and means of protection. While abstinence and avoidance of early sexual activity feature highly in the trainings, the organization redesigned the approach in implementing sexual education in schools. This year, ASGS relied on the help of medical student volunteers under the supervision of SUSOM faculty Dr. Dumitrescu, who overhauled the two existing programmes, redesigning them with new presentations and interactive activities. The first day of workshops concentrated on raising the teens’ self-esteem and empowering them to make healthy lifestyle choices. The second day concentrated on sexuality issues, potential abuse of minors, abstinence, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy protection.
The comprehensive youth HIV/STI prevention programme includes exercises on self-esteem, identifying personal values, setting life goals, creating healthy role models and looking critically at media messages and portrayals of gender roles. They also investigate a broader understanding of masculinity and femininity social concepts and gender roles throughout time and cultures. The workshops teach skills in personal boundary setting, dealing with healthy and unhealthy relationships. Condom use is taught, as well as communication skills within relationships, particularly identifying warning signs of potential abuse and violence.