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“The First Lady Is Calling On Youths To Be Careful”

Jean Stéphane Biatcha, Executive Secretary of African Synergy Against HIV and Suffering.

Another edition of the AIDS-Free-Holidays has been launched. What is particular about this year’s edition of the HIV campaign spearheaded by the First Lady of Cameroon since 2003?

The particularity about this year’s AIDS-Free-Holidays campaign is the fight against the Coronavirus. This is an additional virus to the fight against the HIV. This has made the campaign more difficult, particular and special. Although the context for the campaign is more complex this year, we know how to handle the situation. We have been doing this campaign for over 18 years. We know what to do to eliminate the Covid-19 pandemic. We are handling both viruses at the same time. While educating people against the HIV, we know that we have to wear our facemask, wash our hands as often as possible and respect the social distance in interacting with people. Such measures were observed during the launching ceremony of the campaign. There are minimal measures that everybody must apply as we take the message against HIV and the Coronavirus to the public.

What is the message that peer educators are taking to their mates and the public?  

It is the usual message we have always spearheaded within the framework of the fight against HIV. Young people have to watch out because HIV is still affecting people. They should preserve themselves from being contaminated. Within the framework of the Coronavirus, young people are being told to wear a face mask each time they are in a public place, wash hands as often as possible and get tested when they have any doubts about their status. These testing centres will be made known to each person the peer educators meet. The First Lady is using the campaign to tell youths to be careful, vigilant, informed and aware of the risk involved in being infected by the HIV or the Coronavirus. We are not out to scare anybody, but to get young people to be better informed to live well.  

What measures have you put in place to ensure the health security of all peer educators and other actors who will be in the field to educate the population against the deadly HIV and Covid-19 pandemic?

Nationwide, we have 600 peer educators. In the Centre Region, we have 125 peer educators, who were tested, before being selected to join the campaign train. The peer educators undertook two-days training to be abreast with the particularity about this year’s AIDS-Free-Holidays campaign. All actors have been trained on how to carry out the campaign. We have given them protective kits especially against Covid-19. They know what to do in case of any exposure to the Coronavirus and HIV. However, we do not expect any accident within the campaign period, but if any, the victims will be taken care of.

What are your expectations at the end of the campaign?

Usually, the campaign runs for three weeks. However, this year, the campaign will run for two weeks due to the modifications that took place on the school calendar. We hope to continue sensitizing many people, especially youths to be informed about the risk factors in contracting HIV or the Coronavirus.

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