Burkina Faso’s children educate children about HIV in UN-supported project

2 April 2008

Thousands of children in Burkina Faso are taking part in peer education programmes to promote awareness among the country’s young about the scourge of HIV/AIDS under a project backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The African Youth Network Against AIDS, the youth arm of a non-governmental organization supported by UNICEF, has sponsored a network of clubs for young people that has grown to almost 2,000 and in which sport, education and other activities are used to teach awareness about how to avoid the disease.

Club discussions are based on the children’s existing knowledge and misconceptions – often drawn from the street – about HIV, with some teenagers or younger children chosen as peer educators to clarify whether the information aired is correct.

One of the educators is Kiemde, a 12-year-old who lost his father two years ago to HIV/AIDS. His club holds activities at weekends in Bissighin, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and has about 25 members.

“I believe we young people need to be sufficiently informed about HIV/AIDS to better know how to avoid it,” he said, adding that it is sometimes difficult to persuade local children to participate in club activities.

“At first, many of my classmates were reluctant to join the club, pretending HIV/AIDS is adults’ business. Now that they can perceive some of the benefits we get from our discussions, they understand this is their business, too.”

Burkina Faso is one of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa to be hit hard by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. About 17,000 Burkinabé children aged 14 and under are currently estimated to be living with HIV.

 

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