Identifying challenges and advantages of peer education in STIs and HIV prevention education with youth at risk in Pakistan

Identifying challenges and advantages of peer education in STIs and HIV

prevention education with youth at risk in Pakistan

R.G. Ahmad

SADA, Development (NGO), Quetta, Pakistan

Objective: One percent of the newly diagnosed STIs and HIV cases in

Balochistan, Pakistan are individuals/youth at risk 8–17 years of age. Our

epidemiologists indicate that STIs and HIV cases among youth increased between

1998 and 2003. While clearly an at-risk demographic, youth are rarely targeted

with STIs and HIV prevention education. To empower youth the pilot project at

the Youth Empowerment Skills fills that gap by utilizing youth at risk/street

children as peer educators administering STIs and HIV prevention programming.

Methodology: In thirty-minute Life Skills education sessions, peer

educators provide out of school going youth sound, realitybased information that

increases their awareness about STDs/HIV and the spread of the virus. Sessions

encourage vulnerable youth to recognize how the virus impacts their lives and

gives them a forum to discuss the issue with people of their own age.

Findings: Launching a Peer Education program, which includes awareness

of self and body protection focusing on child sexual abuse and STDs/HIV, life

skills, gender and human rights/children rights awareness, preventive health

measure, and care at work. Opening care- and counseling center for these working

and street children and handling these centers over to local communities. During

awareness sessions, youth are informed about the nutrition, physical and

psychological changes, masturbation, menstrual cycle, family planning and STDs/HIV.

It was determined relationships among HIV related knowledge, beliefs and sexual

behavior of young adults and found that reason for unsafe sex included,

misconception about disease etiology, conflicting cultural values, risk denial

partner pressures, trust and partner significance, accusation of promiscuity,

lack of community endorsement of protective measures, and barrier to condom

access. In addition socio economic pressure, physiological issues, poor

community participation and attitudes, and low education level limited the

effectiveness of existing HIV prevention education.

Conclusion: Presentations at centers by peer educators have

demonstrated that audiences over 12 years of age typically have only basic

information about STIs and HIV. Confusion regarding the difference between HIV

and STIs and the specifics of risk related behaviors generated interest in the

presentations. Additional conclusions will be drawn as the pilot progresses and

administrators tabulate survey results and conduct focus groups with peer

educators and participants.

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