World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS and show their support for people living with HIV. The day provides us with the opportunity to remind ourselves that HIV has not gone away and that collectively, there is the need to increase knowledge and awareness and to continue to fight prejudice, stigma and discrimination.
The importance of SSA’s HIV and AIDS education programmes
Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) estimates that the overall HIV prevalence rate is approximately 13,5% among the South African population. The total number of people living with HIV (PLWHIV) is estimated at approximately 7,97 million in 2019. For adults aged 15–49 years, an estimated 19,07% of the population is HIV positive.
As a youth organisation it is our duty to support the well-being of our members. Scouting world wide has entered into a partnership with the UN to mobilise our members and to enable them to contribute towards achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals. Promoting health and well-being for all at all ages is one of the Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Currently, AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents (aged 10–19) in Africa and the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally. All over the world adolescent girls and young women face gender-based inequalities, exclusion, discrimination and violence, which put them at increased risk of acquiring HIV. These deaths can be avoided through prevention and treatment, education, campaigns, and sexual and reproductive healthcare. (http://www.un.org/sustainable development/health/)
Given this objective and these statistics, SSA runs HIV and AIDS awareness and behavioral change programmes as part of its Scout Advancement programme and promotes it amidst the adolescent and young adult membership.
The SCOUTS South Africa “HIV/AIDS awareness programme” is not new. It’s been running since 2002 and is available to all Scout Groups nationwide. By expanding their knowledge and raising awareness about prevention amidst their peers, Scouts can earn a badge. The programme also talks to eliminating prejudice and stigma.
When an external evaluator assessed our programme he stated: “It is a well-designed package of HIV prevention interventions. The Scouts programme is unique in that it presents knowledge about HIV in the context of a supporting system of values, life purpose, group norms and identity. Furthermore, young people gain a strong sense of belonging and identity from their participation in a Scout troop. This exerts positive peer pressure. Younger Scouts generally have a high regard for their patrol and troop leaders. It is from these trusted sources that they repeatedly receive messages about positive masculinity, gender sensitivity, human rights and behaviors which protect them against the risk of HIV infection. This is underpinned by an appeal to the higher values and norms embodied in the Scout Law and Promise to which they repeatedly subscribe.
The HIV and AIDS programme materials are available from the National Office and on the SCOUTS SA Wiki.
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