Teenagers tackle the HIV virus in a virtual world

Messages tailored for young people resonate well with them. right: President Uhuru Kenyatta with Elijah Zachary who was born with HIV at the launch of the campaign last month. [photos: GOVEDI ASUTSA and courtesy]

Kenya: Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched a campaign to scale up the fight against HIV and Aids among adolescents. During the launch, he said it was the leading cause of adolescent deaths with one adolescent getting infected every two minutes in Kenya and Aids being the second largest cause of death among adolescents globally.

“We can no longer afford to ignore the high rate of HIV infections among our adolescents. We need to work together to protect them,” said the President at the launch of the ‘All in Campaign to End Adolescent Aids’ at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

To mitigate this, the country’s young people need relevant and timely information to build their knowledge and skills to promote and sustain behaviour change.

There have been efforts to reach adolescents about HIV and Aids through books, newspaper articles, radio and television programmes and peer education since reproductive health education is not mainstreamed in the curriculum. More needs to be done.

To reach the youths with the message, you must make it fun. Young people enjoy media, theatre, lively arts and technology, which makes these the best forums to get them talking about their sexuality and keeping safe.

It works even better to meet young people in cyberspace.

Youth4life, an e-learning programme that is being rolled out by dance4life involves young people and gives them a powerful voice in halting the spread of HIV through the use of music and dance.

Through the virtual realm, they receive HIV and Aids education on the Internet and their mobile phones. Besides learning, they receive life saving skills, seek help and stay safe. The information on the platform is tailored to suit them by using short texts, infographics, videos and relatable photos.

The forum also links them to youth friendly health facilities, which they can easily locate through Google maps. In addition to giving details of location and information about services the facility offers, contacts and opening hours are also available.

Began in Netherlands in 2004, dance4life is a dynamic international initiative that empowers young people all around the world to tackle HIV and Aids, stigma and taboos that surround it.

The programme’s four steps - inspire, educate, activate and celebrate - are coordinated to resonate with young people. Perhaps this is the approach everyone should use to reach young people.