Most young Haitians still lack access to vital sex education
“After the earthquake in 2010, sexual violence in Haiti went through the roof. The most vulnerable people, children and women, were more than ever exposed to rape and abuse. It was really, really bad. Men would grab them in their tents, just like that,” says Marie Sonie Brizon, a 23 year-old woman who lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “The main priority at that point was to treat the seriously injured people. Everyone was looking for food and a place to sleep. Protecting ourselves against HIV/AIDS was not our main concern. This led to an increase of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
MTV Staying Alive asked Marie how sex education, access to contraception, and the stigma around HIV/AIDS has changed since the earthquake hit her country:
“There is no sexual education in schools in Haiti. Only in biology class can we ask some questions, but mainly about human reproduction. Most young Haitians lack crucial knowledge about sex. You don’t talk about sex with your family, it’s taboo. To find out about sex, we have to go and find out ourselves by listening to the radio, watching television, and reading books or articles about it. Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) offer educational programs. But it’s not enough, if we want to fight HIV/AIDS in this country, there needs to be sexual education at schools or in the church.
It’s easy to access condoms, unless you live in the outskirts. Some hospitals and NGO’s give away free condoms, but you can always just buy them at the market or in local shops. Tests for STIs are also freely available at any hospital. However, this only goes for the cities. For young people who live in remote places, access to contraception is problematic. There are no hospitals where they live. Besides that, young people are less informed about sex and STIs, because radio stations don’t reach their homes. They might know what HIV/AIDS is, but they don’t necessarily know how to protect themselves. We urgently need health centres in the remote areas to show the young people there how to protect themselves.
People living with HIV are excluded from society. The taboo around HIV/AIDS is slowly diminishing in Haiti. Whereas 5 years ago, we couldn’t talk about HIV/AIDS at all, we can now discuss it with our friends or someone we trust. However, the stigma around people living with HIV is still ever-present. Very rarely will a person living with HIV speak openly about their status. They’re often afraid to be seen going to the hospital to get medication. In most cases, only the doctor, a psychologist, or social worker knows about their status. When people find out that a person has HIV, their perception of that person changes drastically, sometimes to the point of avoiding them or even excluding them from society. They might think that this person has been reckless, because after all HIV is a disease that can be prevented.”
Find out how MTV Staying Alive is fighting HIV in Haiti.
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