“The atmosphere was child friendly and we spoke the local krio language which also made communication very easy for us kids” says Aminata Palmer, 15 describing the HIV/AIDS workshop held in Freetown to consult children for the holding of a national AIDS campaign workshop in October.
This consultative conference was also replicated in the Southern (Bo) and Eastern region (Kenema).
Hawa Musa the Senior Planning Officer at the Ministry of Development pointed out that there are over 5,000 children affected with HIV in the country and considering the fact that awareness raising about the virus is still low among adults – it is definitely minimal among children.
“As a result we decided to start HIV campaign among children” says Hawa.
“We want to arrest this scourge as early as possible – targeting the children who will be the future leaders will to a large extent minimize the rate of the spread of the virus.”
She stated that HIV is a multidimensional issue, a development issue so the Ministry of development is collaborating with other stakeholders like the National AIDS Secretariat, Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, UN Theme Group on AIDS and UNICEF to engage the children this time around in the campaign against AIDS.
Aminata was happy for all the information she got from the workshop about AIDS but she regretted that there are thousands of vulnerable children, (street children, physically challenged, orphans) that could not be reached with the AIDS prevention messages they were having She noted that these children are most times at the greatest risk of being infected by the virus.
Aminata recommended that the National workshop in October should incorporate these categories of children.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the President of the Children’s Forum Network, Bamine C Boye who also said that this workshop on HIV/AIDS is the very first engagement of Children on AIDS issues.
He said as Children they welcome this move and hope that many other NGOs factor children now in their AIDS campaign.
Sahr A. Ngewoh-Tana a social worker from Don Bosco who accompanied several children in their care to the workshop said that with the loads of information on HIV/AIDS they have got from the workshop they will disseminate the information to over 150 children mostly street kids during their summer camp which had already started at their headquarters in Freetown.
He suggested that the organizers of the workshop should liaise with them and other NGOs dealing with street children and other vulnerable children so they would target a wider range of children in subsequent AIDS sensitization projects.