Thursday, November 3, 2011

Speaking Up and Speaking Out: HIV/AIDS Bike Trek 2011

HIV has been in The Gambia longer than most of its current twenty-something Peace Corps volunteers have been alive. The overwhelming prevalence of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHs) makes the concept of getting tested unpopular. In America, the slogan “Knowing is Beautiful” has been used to promote knowing one’s HIV status. When it comes to getting tested for HIV in The Gambia, knowing is terrifying. Confidentiality is thrown to the wind by medical professionals, especially when it comes to an HIV test. Those who test positive run the risk of being outed to their family and friends, and are subsequently kicked out of their compounds. The fear of contracting the virus is so great for the uninfected family members and neighbors that they choose to distance themselves from their HIV-positive loved ones. The number of support groups is on the rise, but so is the virus, and the stigmatization shows no signs of fading.

In 2010, members of Peace Corps’ HIV/AIDS Task Force decided to do something about it.
Last year, more than twenty Peace Corps volunteers traveled to villages throughout the country for an HIV/AIDS Bike Trek that lasted one week. In the days that followed, hundreds of schoolchildren were spotted around the Gambia wearing red yarn tied around their wrists, a reminder for them to educate their family and friends about their knowledge on HIV.
In October of this year, the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek returned, this time as a two-day educational curriculum, taught simultaneously by four teams at four schools in the Lower River and Upper River Regions. The resulting video, Speaking Up and Speaking Out: HIV/AIDS Bike Trek 2011, is here.
Disclaimer: Speaking Up and Speaking Out: HIV/AIDS Bike Trek 2011 features discussions on HIV transmission and methods of preventing transmission, including a culturally-sensitive condom demonstration. While the rest of the videos posted on You Are Here Only are kid-friendly, this one should be reviewed by parents and educators who are thinking about sharing it with their children.

Music credits:
Lust for Life by Iggy Pop

Televators by The Mars Volta

The HIV Awareness Song, music and lyrics by Remy Long and John Rozmus

BONUS! By popular demand of the Peace Corps volunteers who got to see it first-hand, I’ve also included The HIV Awareness Song, created by PCVs Remy Long and John Rozmus. It’s kid-friendly, it’s catchy, and like knowledge, it’s worth sharing.