In a bid to utilise their holiday period well, 45 students heading Anti-AIDS clubs from various secondary schools across the country, Sunday completed a training program on sexuality, reproductive health and dangers of HIV/AIDS.
The week long training was conducted by a local NGO, Health Development Initiative (HDI)-Rwanda, in partnership with a UK-based organization Sexpression, with an aim of sensitising students on holiday on sexuality as well as HIV/AIDS.
According to Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, the Executive Director of HDI, the workshops which started on Monday last week, targeted heads of Anti-AIDS clubs who in turn, will be required to pass on the knowledge to their schoolmates.
“We trained young people from schools especially from anti-AIDS clubs, on issues to do with sexuality, HIV/AIDS and other STDs. We believe that issues to do with sexuality in our culture are a taboo most of the times,” Dr. Kagaba said.
“Young people don’t get a chance to get the right information, so we are engaging them, not only on sexuality and the disadvantages of unsafe sex, but we are also giving them a platform to ask questions regarding sexuality and safe sex practices”.
He noted that the initiative came after the national program against HIV/AIDS identified young people between the ages of 15 and 19 as a key population prone to HIV/AIDS because they lack enough information on sex yet it is this age they start to explore.
“This is a group that needs to be empowered, especially on awareness to make them able to make informed decisions in their sexual lives. It’s a group that can easily contract HIV”.
Kagaba said that the students from Anti-AIDS clubs of several schools are expected to go back and create awareness among other students and create space where young people can get information related to sexuality and HIV/AIDS.
In an interview with The New Times, David Lawrence, the National Coordinator of Sexpression in the UK, said the group will provide peer education to young persons for the next three weeks, mainly regarding puberty, sex education, STDs, contraception, abstinence among others around the country.
“I have been doing this kind of training for six years back in the UK and Uganda, and I found that students in Rwanda are very open to learn. They have the will to put the knowledge they have gained here to use,” he said.
“We have had some very good opportunities to talk about access to sex education in schools, things like access to contraception in schools such as condoms, and we noticed that while in other countries such discussions are forbidden, Rwanda has taken a good step where these issues are being talked about,” Lawrence said.
Doreen Umuringa, 17, from EFOTEC Secondary School and Tito Gakire, 18 from Kagarama Secondary School, said that the training was very helpful and had equipped them with knowledge on sex, STDs and abstinence and would pass on what they learnt to their school mates.
“I have gained a lot of knowledge, especially how I can protect myself from HIV and other STI’s and also how to avoid early pregnancies, and this is the knowledge I will take to my fellow students,” said Umuringa.
Students were urged to shun early sex as it exposes them to HIV/AIDS and other dangers that would likely affect their studies.