What can be done in the Virgin Islands to reduce the spread of HIV by 2015? The V.I. Department of Education joins the nation and world in the observance of World AIDS Day on Wednesday, Dec. 1. Efforts to bring awareness of the disease to the forefront and educate young people openly are ongoing.
Shanelle Larsen, program manager for the department’s StateOffice of Prevention, Intervention, Health and Wellness Programs said, “If we want our prevention efforts to have an impact and to prevent new cases of HIV in our young people, they must be able to speak about love, sex and sexual orientations in an open, free and informed way. HIV must no longer be stigmatized. People living with HIV are productive citizens with the same rights to protection by the law, access to health care and other services. In 2010, HIV is not about death; it is about people living and enjoying productive lives.”
The department, in collaboration with HOPE INC., brings HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention into the territory’s public schools through education and empowerment. “Last Saturday, Nov. 27, the department partnered with HOPE INC. for the kick-off of its annual “Rites of Passage (ROP)” program. This grassroots HIV prevention program is designed specifically for 12th grade females and reduces HIV risk determinants by increasing behaviors that support healthy and productive lifestyles and behaviors,” said Larsen.
During the all-day Saturday sessions, the students will discuss the topics: A Journey through Time; From the Cradle to the Rocking Chair; Women’s Health; All about the Big H in the Room; Staying in Control; and My Money and Me. Nineteen young women from Charlotte Amalie High School are committed to participating in Cycle One of the five-cycle series, which continues on Dec. 18.
Subsequent cycles have been scheduled for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year from 9a.m. to 5p.m. — Cycle Two: Jan., 29 and Feb. 5; Cycle Three: Feb. 26 and March 5; Cycle Four: March 26 and April 2; and, Cycle Five: April 30and May 7.
“At the Department of Education, we understand more has to be done to reduce the spread of all chronic diseases, so we will continue to work with partnering agencies to bring awareness and prevention to the forefront of our schools and community. Therefore, we encourage all high school females to sign up for participation in this program. However, space is limited and on a first-come first-serve basis. Applications are available at the two district high schools in the principal’s office or can be obtained at the Prevention, Intervention, Health and Wellness Programs Office at the Education Main complex located on Kongens Gade.”
If you are an agency willing to partner in furthering Health and Wellness efforts, contact Shanelle Larsen at 693-0980 or via e-mail: [email protected].