HIV and AIDS are everyone’s business and each Barbadian must play his or her part.
In fact, said Youth Development Officer in the Ministry of Youth, Family and Sports, Monique James, Barbadians must not only rely on international organisations to educate our people on these diseases, but must start with themselves.
She was speaking at the eighth annual Primary School HIV Essay prize giving ceremony this morning at the Cuthbert Pilgrim Memorial Hall in Maxwell Hill, Christ Church.
Each year the Silver Sands HIV Education Committee hosts an essay competition for primary schools in Christ Church with the aim of not only teaching the children about myths and other aspects of the virus but about holistic family life education, said Committee Chairman, Petrona Holder said.
This year, Anika Reid of St. Christopher’s Primary won first place, while St. Lawrence Primary was second and third, with Brandon Riley and Ceejay Harper.
Six schools took part in the competition and 19 of the 20 participants were present today to collect their prizes, when James stressed that the work they started with the essay should not end there.
“Today I am here to encourage you as children — it is all about you. The fight against HIV is not only about me, it is about all of us,†and despite all the reports we are getting, all the money that is being invested in HIV and AIDS, all the new committees that have been established, the host of money being invested in departments of Government there is still a rise in HIV and AIDS.
“So what are we doing wrong or are we not doing? All the interventions are being done, all the projects are being done, but what are we not doing?
“Each of us have to talk about HIV and AIDS in our family. Each of us has to be responsible for talking about sex in our family, sexual disease…, †because it is our business and today let this not be just another competition… Let your essay become your lifestyle. You have done great research, you have found out all the facts but don’t just keep that information. Five years from now you should be able to stand Ceejay [Harper] and say, ‘I am HIV negative because not only did I seek to live a life not to catch HIV but I told my friends about it’.
“The HIV problem cannot be solved overnight, but I believe in 10 years from now if everybody takes hold of this problem, if everybody takes charge of it, if everybody takes ownership of it, we can truly say that HIV and AIDS is our business, even mine.
“It is no longer the responsibility of the country, it is not only the responsibility of the minister, it is no longer the responsibility of the HIV/ AIDS educators, it is no longer the responsibility of all the committees we set up across the island…, it is no longer their responsibility — it is mine and it is yours.
Other participants were: D’Andre Griffith, Florian Farrell and Desean Bynoe of Arthur Smith Primary; Ayesha Bootman and Rico Williams of Jones Private School; Anton Greenidge, Daniel Smith and Naem Jordan of Milton Lynch Primary; Tyrese Doughty and Ravara Clarke of St. Christopher’s Primary; and Emile Morgan, Shamia Simpson and Falisa Hall of St. Bartholomew’s Primary.