Calabar, eastern Nigeria. This university town has a big student population and a vibrant nightlife. It’s also a popular holiday destination in Nigeria because of its nice climate and laid-back atmosphere. However, there’s another side to Calabar as well. The city is facing increasing numbers of HIV infections, especially among young people. Hoping to make a living, many young women flock into the city and end up doing commercial sex work, for which there is plenty of demand. Unable to negotiate for safe sex, many of them get infected with HIV.
A lot of students find themselves in a similar position. In a country where talking about sexuality and safe sex is considered a big taboo, only few young people know how they can contract or prevent HIV. Hence, many students are unknowingly putting themselves at risk by repeatedly having unprotected sex with different sexual partners.
David and Wole, two guys studying in Calabar, could no longer stand the fact that so many of their friends and fellow students were involved in such risky behaviour. They decided to set up their own organisation, U-CARE, with the aim to educate young people in the city about safe sex. Four years ago, in December 2011, U-CARE received its first grant from the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which enabled them to launch mass HIV sensitisation and testing activities by and for young people, using a language and style that appeals to them. Understanding the fact that students, naturally, want to make the most of their student time, U-CARE doesn’t advocate for complete abstention. Instead, they are teaching students how to enjoy life responsibly, without unnecessarily exposing themselves to risks.
Over the past four years, U-CARE has educated thousands of students and young commercial sex workers in Calabar about safe sex and has helped hundreds of them to get to know their HIV status. At MTV Staying Alive we’re proud to be supporting young leaders such as David and Wole. The below video tells their story…