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“Jamaican and Canadian youths unite for unique HIV/AIDS project”

An international project has brought together youths from Jamaica and Canada to film a documentary about the youth response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, reports 25-year-old Keresa Arnold, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kingston, Jamaica.

The issue of HIV/AIDS is one that has received significant attention since it was first discovered in the 1980s.

With statistics showing that blacks constitute the highest number of reported cases, it is especially important that individuals in the Caribbean are educated about prevention, transmission and treatment.

It is with this in mind that the Ottawa-based Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), in conjunction with the Somerset West Community Health Centre and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) in Jamaica, joined forces to organize a project that sees young people contributing to an organized response to the epidemic.

The HIV Awareness and Caribbean Diaspora Project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), brought together 12 youth from Jamaica and Canada to produce a documentary aimed at educating individuals and highlighting the youth response to HIV/AIDS.

“The overarching goal of the project is to raise awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS, both amongst Caribbean Diaspora communities in Canada and in the Caribbean,” says Layla Rich, senior program officer at ICAD.

“In addition, we hope to strengthen Canada’s contribution to global HIV/AIDS issues by increasing the involvement of the Caribbean Diaspora in Canada, raising awareness within the Caribbean Diaspora in Ottawa of HIV/AIDS issues in the Caribbean and improving the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS programs targeting youth from the Caribbean Diaspora.”

Rich also notes that the project organisers hoped to provide youth with important tools by “promoting a culture of leadership and active citizenship among youth and supporting youth in developing lifelong skills and knowledge.”

David Lewis-Peart, a Canadian living in Toronto, says his decision to become a part of the project stemmed from his interest in learning about HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. “As a result of being a part of the project however, my sentiment has turned to a more personal one as I’ve come to better know the community of my parents’ birth, as well as find a respect for LGBT [Lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender] persons living in the region and their ability to thrive in what can for many be a hostile environment at times.”

After two months of intense training, interviews, filming and editing, the 20-minute documentary, which was filmed in the two countries, was produced under the theme “One Blood: Youth Linked In Action”.

For Yannick Hemmings, a Jamaican university student, the project has given her significant knowledge. She says she got involved because of a desire to advance her understanding of video production and to also be a part of a project that would have significant impacts on youth. Undoubtedly, her desire was met.

To complement the documentary, two youth journalists were also engaged to produce a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the work being done. By shadowing the project participants and conducting interviews with them, individuals will get a chance to see the personal impact of the project, why each person got involved and what lessons they will take away from the experience.

There will be screenings of both films in Ottawa, Canada and Kingston, Jamaica, later this year.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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3 Comments on ““Jamaican and Canadian youths unite for unique HIV/AIDS project””

  • FRIDAY - (July 26th, 2011 11:11 pm)



  • FRIDAY - (July 26th, 2011 11:13 pm)


  • Jones Chamangwana - (August 14th, 2011 7:18 am)

    Reach out ministries is a local non-profit faith based organization which was formed and registered with the Malawi government to save and change lives of people. The ministry works to bring about transformation to the poor and the oppressed people, young and old within church and communities. The organisation is affiliated to Scripture union of Malawi, Malawi council for churches and partners who are involved in promoting poverty eradication, Education, health care, social justice, peace, the integrity of creation and inter-religion collaboration

    Reach out ministries aims to enhance public awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to limit the spread of HIV infection in the community. It also provides a wide range of services for AIDS patients and their families. It is hoped that by educating the general public and by improving their understanding of the subject, AIDS cases can be reduced and the infected can receive support from the community

    In the Health sector Reach out ministries, improve the health status of the community by developing and operating partnerships and collaborations that provide expanded access to high quality health care services and education.The ministry provides supplemental food and nutritional education to low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children diagnosed as being at nutritional risk, and improving women’s health over the life course, not only during pregnancy, but maternal and child health.
    The ministry realise the importance of eating well as a vital for health and active life and the challenges that poverty is major cause of the nutritional problem in developing countries- including Malawi.
    It is our duty as a faith based organisation to improve people’s nutrition and provide nutrition education at a community level. We always believe that healthy people are lifelong learners; Healthy leaders are committed to serve and develop others.

    Reach out ministries seek to bring commitment and create the faith based network to promote religion world wide evangelism and take the responsibility in reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS in the religious body, individuals, families and the communities. We always believe that religious sectors are the key to mitigating the epidemic because; they are trusted and respected members of the society and are influential in shaping social values and public opinion. Moreover, the church has spiritual and social care that can promote actions through their presence in local communities. The church has a long history of presence, proclamation and persuasion and can bring suggestions to slow the spread of this deadly epidemic and the human suffering that goes along with it. The church has the scripture manual with tested and proven effectiveness in changing behaviour morals.

    We always believe that the church was a loving and caring church; Reach Out Ministries is therefore empowering the same church to save and care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Our attitude and Behaviour towards people living with HIV&AIDS is a great test of our Christian faith and we always believe that individuals and whole communities have the inherent capacity to change attitudes and behaviours.
    We always believe that the church has been given the ministry of reconciliation, and they can help to change people’s attitude and behaviour.

    Mission Statement
    Reach out ministries called to bring love to the poor and the oppressed;-
     To improve the health and well-being of the community, reach-out people and changing lives
     To promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the kingdom of God
     To reach, rescue and restore children who are targeted by human traffickers and the global sex trade.

    The Main Objective
    To reach people for life and bring hope to the hopeless

    Strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and control in Malawi
    There are five basic strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and control in Malawi
    • To prevent HIV/AIDS transmission by providing transmission-related information and education to the general public so as to bring about behavioural modification, early detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

    • To relieve physical and psychological sufferings of the HIV/AIDS infected by means of the AIDS care programmes.

    • To understand the dimensions and impact of HIV/AIDS in Malawi, and to conduct epidemiological surveillance studies and monitoring regularly so as to obtain useful and accurate information about HIV/AIDS distribution in the community.

    • To encourage international partnership as well as collaboration with the community in order to bring about a coherent and constantly updated method of prevention and control.
    • To improve the health status of the community by developing and operating partnerships and collaborations that provide expanded access to high quality health care services, education and provides supplemental food and nutritional education to low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children diagnosed as being at nutritional risk
    Ministry Work
    The ministry’s work emphasize on providing support services to those in need. Development and provision of training programmes for AIDS frontline workers are also provided. The ministry has various approaches to achieve its founding mission, such as support services, outreach programmes supported by foundation-trained peer educators (volunteers or people who come from target groups), education programmes and workshops, questionnaire surveys, sex education, publicity and fund-raising events, publications as well as through collaborations with other organizations.
    This ministry is more concerned with the issue of malnutrition and wants to avert the situation by addressing the family food shortage, inadequate care and feeing practices especially of children and women, poor living conditions and poor health services.

    The ministry focusing on four key issues in response to HIV/AIDS;
    • Strengthen care and support for People Living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, vulnerable children and the Elderly
    • Reducing the vulnerability of girls and women and help them attain human rights and increase the participation of women whose role in the household is recognised as crucial to the effectiveness of any development intervention
    • Increase areas access to treatment and care
    • Mobilizing resources for expanded HIV/AIDS response

    The goal of HIV & AIDS counseling in particular is twofold:
    • To help infected and affected people to come in terms with their situation; and
    • To promote coping strategies for the infected and the affected, including preventing or reducing HIV-transmission
    Education programmes
    The ministry believes that education can cultivate one’s mind and thus, lead to behavioural changes. It also believes that education can combat ignorance from where misconceptions and discrimination stems. What they are aspirating, in this sense, is ‘prevention is better than cure’ and the following programmes are aimed to increase the awareness and knowledge of the general public.
    • Community-based Publicity and Education on HIV/AIDS – Activities in forms of fair day, open forum, questionnaire, survey, exhibition, seminar and contest are held.
    • ‘Train the Trainers Education Activities’ – The AIDS and the Workplace’ talks aim to enhance public awareness of HIV/AIDS infection among co-workers and to formulate AIDS-related workplace policies.
    • Library of the ministry – Its library has been providing service since 1996 with a collection of materials on subjects like AIDS, sex education, counselling, Bible study, health education and medical treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and so on..
    Target-specific programmes
    Besides the various basic support services mentioned above, the Reach out ministries Aids program undertook difficult projects that targeted specific groups of people in our local community that are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection ,the poor and the oppressed people, young and old within church and communities. These activities were carried out with the help of many volunteers as some of these activities were carried out at a place convenient for these target groups, such as sex workers, at clinics for outpatient ,church and communities,
    Therefore AIDS educations among People Living with HIV/AIDS and commercial sex workers are very important, for this background the ministry has started projects to provide nutritional care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS with increased nutrient needs and is mainly targeted at people on ART and their families at home and to promote sexual health and facilitate the prevention of AIDS among the people at risk. Various programmes are held under these projects, including education and counselling service, training peer educators, outreach service, workshops, food supplemental, etc. Among reach out ministries’ recent accomplishments in the area of HIV/AIDS: 8,759 health care workers have been trained and 14,655 students and general community members have been educated about HIV care and prevention. Peer educators reached nearly 400,000 people in a cross border project in Malawi
    An HIV/AIDS Prevention Education is accessed by more than 15,000 community members, mostly at-risk youth, and has trained more than 500 professionals
    Youth participated in abstinence and being faithful behaviour change activities, while gaining valuable life skills experience

    Reach out ministries has targeted to work with the church/ communities for the following reasons:
    • The people that are infected and affected are members of the church, therefore it is the responsibility of the church to become a community that projects good values and a beacon of hope to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
    • The church has to be at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
    • The church is equipped with God’s armour and other spiritual weapons with which to challenge sin and wickedness on earth
    • The church has a long history of presence, proclamation and persuasion.
    • Have a well- developed structure.
    • Are self- sustaining.
    • Have a captive loyal audience which meets every week.
    • Have predictable leadership.
    • Have grassroots support and understand the language at the grassroots level.
    • The church gives hope beyond the grave.
    • Have the scripture manual with tested and proven effectiveness in changing behaviour morals.
    Publicity programmes and fund-raising activities
    Reach out ministry publicity programmes include concerts, quilt displays, Malawi New Year Flower Fair and district activities. Its regular fund-raising activities include flag selling, fund-raising dinners, public film premiers, charity sales on streets or inside shopping malls. In its charity sale, the best selling item is “red ribbon” which is supposed to be a symbol of care and concern for AIDS. Since 1996, the ministry has also started its annual AIDS Charity Walk for fund raising purpose.
    Those who are interested and wish to support this ministry please email the following address

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