Earth Island News
Global Service Corps
Day camp offers life skills in AIDS fight
No part of the world is more drastically affect by HIV and AIDS than sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, an estimated 7.7 percent of the population is infected with HIV (over 1.3 million Tanzanians), and some studies estimate the incidence at closer to 12 percent. Over 3.2 million sub-Saharan Africans are newly infected with HIV every year. More than 80 percent of HIV transmission in Tanzania is the result of sexual contact, but fewer than seven percent of all Tanzanians were tested for HIV in 2005.
Youth are particularly affected by the epidemic, which is increasingly limiting their opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives. Prevention efforts that are truly committed to eliminating HIV and AIDS in Tanzania must target young people. More than half of newly infected Tanzanians are between 15 and 24 years old; at the same time, young people are more likely than adults to embrace and maintain safe behaviors.
Global Service Corps (GSC) has responded to the epidemic by working throughout the Arusha region of northern Tanzania to slow the spread of HIV and AIDS among African communities, especially targeting the youth. In 2002, GSC teamed with members of the local NGO community in Arusha and local area schools to launch its first-ever HIV/AIDS Peer Education and Life Skills Day Camp Program, to be held annually at selected secondary schools in the Arusha Region. Targeting students in Forms One and Two (equivalent to ninth and tenth grade), the Day Camp Program's objective is to educate students about HIV and AIDS prevention and life skills before they become sexually active. The program's diverse and interactive curriculum strives to increase self-esteem and encourage decision-making skills among youth in their teens and 20s - the age group facing the highest rates of HIV infection worldwide.
To ensure the sustainability of the Day Camp Program and the education and empowerment it imparts, student-led Peer Education Health Clubs are established in each school after the Day Camp Program has been completed. Led by elected student officials, the Health Clubs allow students to share their knowledge with fellow students and community members, and to continue their HIV and AIDS education by becoming trainers themselves.
This summer, GSC's HIV/AIDS and Life Skills Day Camp marked its fifth year by running four camps. The camps were led by teams of GSC volunteers, local secondary school teachers, and Tanzanian University students who acted as both translators and facilitators. The camp staff prepared by committing themselves to extensive training and preparation in the fields of nutrition, environmental protection and stewardship, and most importantly youth leadership, citizenship, and civic responsibility.
The core curriculum covered by the 2006 Day Camps included courses on basic human biology and sexuality, civic responsibility, youth leadership, and the rights, roles, and responsibilities of students in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Guest lecturers, performers, and artists were invited to each camp to provide additional information, training, and activities for the 284 student participants.
know I have made a positive impact on these students, and by equipping
them with knowledge and life skills, they can educate others and make a
difference in their communities."
Chelsea Reighard, 2006 Day Camp volunteer
GSC's 2006 HIV/AIDS Peer Education and Life Skills Day Camps were a success not only because they brought together students and teachers from different cultures and nationalities to talk openly about the value of life and the reality of AIDS in the world today, but also because they dispelled myths about HIV/AIDS and inspired healthy behaviors and attitudes among the students involved. Data from tests taken before and after the camp showed significant and decisive progress among students in their understanding of HIV transmission, prevention, and treatment, as well as positive changes in attitude towards people living with HIV and AIDS, sexual relationships, abstinence, fidelity, condom use, gender issues, and youth leadership.
In addition, the Peer Education Health Clubs set up at each of the four Day Camp schools have already begun planning community HIV and AIDS trainings, and have committed themselves to passing on the knowledge and decision-making skills they gained in the camps.
After its success in Tanzania, GSC is currently teaming with NGOs in East Asia to implement a similar program in Thailand for the summer of 2007. Although the content will vary slightly from the Tanzania day camps, the goal will be the same: to educate and empower the youth in HIV and AIDS awareness, prevention, and general life skills so that they may live healthy and productive lives.