24 August 2011

Cameroon: AIDS Free-Holidays - Youths Turn up Massively for Screening

The ninth edition of "AIDS-Free Holidays" is on, and youths in Cameroon are leaving nothing to chance to get screened.

Queues of youths, especially the male, made rounds at the Mvan Motor Park in Yaounde, on August 24 where a team from the National AIDS Control Committee (NACC) was waiting to get them screened. The national campaign, launched in Yaounde on Tuesday August 23 by the Minister of Public Health, André Mama Fouda, has seen the deployment of some 400 peer educators to the field to sensitise youths, especially young girls, on the need of screening for HIV.

On the field, peer educators and specialists from NACC could be seen at work. As scores of youths queued up by 9 a.m., health experts prepared material for the effective take off of the exercise. By 10 a.m, when all was set for the exercise to begin, the crowd was already impressive and the youths eager to know their HIV status.

The screening process was simple. Upon arrival, the youths were registered and issued code numbers and forms for counselling after which they were screened. They were each asked to come for results after one hour. With the turn out, Celestin Megna, counsellor at the Technical Centre for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS at NACC, was optimistic that the 200 youths targeted for the day would be met. He expressed satisfaction at the response from youths even though young girls were lesser in number. He said the campaign was able to screen over 200 youths at the launch of the exercise at the Yaounde Conference Centre on August 23.

Some of the young boys took upon themselves to sensitise young girls on the streets to benefit from the free screening exercise. As the experts screened youths for HIV, peer educators were reportedly in neighbourhoods to sensitise, encourage and brief youths on the mode of transmission and means of protection against the pandemic.

Those who participated in the screening said it was important to know their status. One of the first girls to be screened, Danielle Z. told Cameroon Tribune that her reason for knowing her status was to make things right with the husband. Thirty-three-year old Amougou on his part said it was an opportunity for him after four years, to know his status. Visibly happy with the campaign, Amougou began playing the role of a peer educator on the spot, encouraging more youths to take advantage of the free screening campaign to get screened for HIV.

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