Twenty-six students from the Barbados Public Workers Thrift Club Summer Camp enjoyed an interactive session on Monday when they learned about HIV/AIDS, as well as the common misconceptions associated with the disease.
Angela Greene, director of the camp which is being held at the Ellerslie Secondary School, said it was important for the youngsters to be armed with the information to fight the deadly disease and the stigma associated with it.
“Every year, we bring different persons to speak to our children….It is very important that these children learn from an early age about the different things that happen in our society,” she said, adding that as a result of the lecture on stigma and discrimination by behavioural change specialist at the National HIV/AIDS Commission Cecelia Neblett-Murray, one child who did not want to associate with anyone with the virus had a change of heart.
Neblett-Murray had invited the students to view a short animated clip which highlighted the misconceptions about how HIV could be contracted, including through kissing, sneezing, using toilet facilities, shaking hands, or hugging.
Trinity Thompson, who had said at the start of the session that “no person with HIV could touch” her, learned a lesson from the film.
“I learnt that you should not discriminate [against] persons because they have HIV or AIDS, and that we should try to be their friend and still try to play with them and help them, as we are all people and we are all human,” she said.
Camper Antwone Estwick also admitted that one of his misconceptions about contracting the virus had been dispelled.
“I learnt that you can’t contract HIV from saliva as I actually thought,” he said.
Meantime, Naleena Gaskin added that people with HIV should not hide their status from the public.
“You should enjoy your life as a normal human being,” she said.
In closing, Neblett-Murray said that while there was a lot of discrimination in society, “education is power”.
“That is why we come out every chance we get and share some basic knowledge about HIV and AIDS.”