An HIV/AIDS awareness workshop which ended on Tuesday, last, has now left 25 differently-able persons more educated and informed about the deadly disease, its prevention and treatment available.
The two-day workshop was spearheaded by the Guyana Society for the Blind (GSB) in collaboration with the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS), and facilitated at the GSB’s building at High Street, Werk-en-Rust.
It catered for persons who were suffering from different forms of disabilities living in various regions.
Ganesh Singh, Project and Youth Co-ordinator of the GSB, stated that the initiative was long in coming since many disabled persons are very vulnerable and lack the necessary information as it relates to safe practices of sex and dealing with HIV/AIDS.
He explained that his organization approached NAPS a few months prior to ensure that there youths are empowered in a number of areas especially in the awareness of HIV/AIDS and they can contribute to the new “youth group” formed by the disabled persons.
Kaieteur News understands that though a lot of information is publicized about this disease, it does not cater for blind and/or differently-able individuals and the GSB plans to use modules developed by NAPS, to format it into electronic tools, and utilize it within their groups.
Such a task would require a lot of co-operation; however, the goal is to use the tools (audio tools) to train selected disabled persons as “peer educators” who can later educate other persons suffering from disabilities throughout the country.
Nazim Hussain, NAPS representative, explained that for the past eight years or more, the response he received from this group of persons with disabilities was overwhelming. The participants “did things never seen before”.
The participants fully comprehended everything taught in the sessions, and were already aware of most of the tactics used.
It was noted that stigma and discrimination play a major role in the lives of both disabled and HIV/AIDS victims therefore it was necessary to have differently-able persons learn as much as they could about the deadly disease.
A major aim of the workshop was also to assist in the reduction of stigma and discrimination in Guyana and help the participants protect themselves if/when involved in sexual encounters.
Hussain told this newspaper that NAPS will also “speak to Merundoi and lend a hand in continuing the new venture” since there is no platform for differently-able people in Guyana.
Fourteen-year-old Asif Khan who participated in the workshop stated that the sessions were informative and interesting.
“I learnt a few things which I didn’t really know and we will all benefit ‘because there is more information on HIV/AIDS now and we can put it to good use. I was blind since I was two years old and I can help others learn about HIV/AIDS after we finish these sessions”
For 30-year old Lavena McBean the workshop was “mind-blowing”.
“I didn’t know what this workshop was exactly about, but to my surprise it was so informative and fun that with the information received we will take it through our lifetimes, and so much information can be circulated. We can get serious about it. Peer educating is mind-blowing, it will be an excellent achievement to educate ones with disabilities”
According to Shellon Swaving, teacher in charge of the Linden Low Vision Unit, her organization caters for 21 children between ages five and 17.
“Workshops like these will help a lot, because parents think when kids have a simple eye condition they don’t need to learn about sex. I believe more counselors should be made available, especially for disabled teens. There is need for people specifically trained in such areas” (Kristen Macklingam)
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