Much effort has been put into increasing awareness and reducing new HIV infections amongst the youth. Over several decades, different organisations have taken part in countless awareness campaigns and peer education initiatives.
One such organisation is Jibilika Dance Trust which uses dance and music to convey messages about abstinence and safe sex. Over the years they have run numerous campaigns under their “Step Up 2 HIV” banner, an initiative with financial support from the United States Embassy.
Artistic liaison, Dennis Madyira says Jibilika host events and discussions about HIV and STI prevention at least five days a week. “We always have a community dance class, a community cypher (freestyle rap event) or a school outreach going on. Each of the platforms raises awareness about HIV and offers life skills to young people,” he said.
Their programming targets young people between 10 and 25 years of age. “In schools, young people are responsive to the abstinence message, in spite of a lot of students admitting that they are already sexually active whilst in communities there is more buy-in to the message on condomizing,” said Madyira.
The organization is aware that most young people are drawn to Jibilika events for the entertainment and performance opportunities. But Madyira says, “They absorb the information once they realise that the entertainment is laced with vital information and education that helps them.”
Though many parents still hold on to the idea of abstinence, the reality of what is happening amongst young people is otherwise, with many young people engaging in unprotected sex.
Social worker, Tapiwa Muregedze said, “The younger generation has been affected by socialisation, especially television and the internet. There are many nude parties where drug and alcohol abuse and unprotected sex is common.”
Muregedze acknowledges the work being done by different stakeholders but is sceptical about the impact of their work. She said the economic situation has left many children under the care of relatives while their parents work in foreign countries.
“Most of these children control the finances for the care of their relatives. Thus their guardians sometimes turn a blind eye to their actions because they are afraid to lose financial support,” said Muregedze. “Without proper parenting, children find themselves exposed to sexual exploitation.”
As for an HIV-free generation, Madyira says. “Yes it’s very possible, but only when we all make a concerted effort from our homes, schools, churches and communities to eradicate this disease. The fight needs everyone to be involved and a consistent approach where people are not only consumers of information, but actively participate in mobilisation.”
Image: A Jibilika dance workshop in full swing.
Image credit: Jibilika