Teenagers take part in HIV awareness workshop
Freeport News Reporter
The Grand Bahama AIDS Awareness Committee (GBAAC) and Red Rose Ball Committee (RRBC) held its second annual HIV/AIDS Teen Prevention Education Program (PEP) Intervention Workshop yesterday at Canal House, Pelican Bay.
Students from schools across the island attending the workshop had an opportunity to hear from a panel of professionals who reminded them that HIV/AIDS is everybody's business and it is up to them to make wise and responsible decisions.
Teen PEP Coordinator and RRBC chairwoman Odette Knowles has been working tirelessly along with her team to ensure junior and senior high school students are properly equipped with the educational tools necessary to prevent them from becoming another statistic of HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).
In today's society, teens are faced with a myriad of issues and pressures that they have to navigate through among the issues is self-esteem.
The Teen PEP workshop is expected to bridge the gap in communication between teens and their parents by providing useful information to students about peer pressure, sexual behavior, sexual risk and HIV/AIDS.
Students received invaluable information from Healthcare Professional/Entrepreneur Richie Persaud of Fort Lauderdale, Florida who served as the guest speaker of the Teen PEP workshop.
Other panelists included Royal Bahamas Police Force Victim Care Professional Sergeant Stacy Dames, Dr. Lionel McIntosh, of PharmaChem Technologies, and Toastmaster and president of GEMS & Concierge Co. Ltd. Sherrell Storr.
Conducting a lively, interactive discussion about personal branding, Storr told the students packaging, content and consistency are three key aspects of maintaining one's personal brand and integrity if they are to successfully accomplish their goals.
"The only barrier between you and success is you," Storr said.
During the workshop, premarital sex and the increasing occurrence of teen pregnancy was addressed as students from Eight Mile Rock High School, St. Paul's Methodist College, St. Georges High School, Sunland Baptist Academy, Jack Hayward High School, Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy, Bishop Michael Eldon School and P.A.C.E (Providing Access to Continued Education) School listened attentively.
Guest speaker Persaud said from the time he was a youngster he believed that self-confidence is one of the most important traits we all should have if anyone plans to accomplish anything in life.
"You have to believe in yourself and when you are able to do that you can take that next step and continue that journey to achieve that ultimate goal.
"I believe we are faced with a crisis in this world today and sometimes we make bad judgments but we have to use our mental faculty, skills and values to make the right decisions.
"So that at the end of the day you do not become another victim or statistic waiting to happen," Persaud advised.
Intently in his resolve Persaud said it is his goal to help our children not to become another accident waiting to happen and it is the responsibility of parents and organizations such as Teen PEP and the Grand Bahama AIDS Awareness Committee to invest in our children, as they are our future.
"I believe education is the most powerful tool we can equip our children with so that they not only fight but be in a position to win in the end.
"HIV/AIDS is slaughtering the world today and we need to increase the level of awareness.
"Our children need to be informed and we must give them a firsthand view of what is happening in the world today so they can truly put into perspective what is really happening out there.
"I want the students to be geared up and prepared to stand up and stop HIV/AIDS virus in its tracks because as many would know AIDS cannot survive without us it needs us to do so.
"If we choose not to allow ourselves to be victims we can eradicate this virus from this world and that is the message I hope to get through to these kids," Persaud said.
Overcoming many struggles, trials and tribulations Persaud said he hoped to encourage the students by letting them know if he can defy the odds they can as well if they work hard, make wise choices and believe in themselves.
According to recent statistics in the United States alone approximately 750,000 American teens become pregnant each year resulting in 400,000 teen births.
Persaud hopes to help students refrain from engaging in premarital sex and reduce the number of teen pregnancies that occur.
"Please keep your eye on the ball children as there is a lot at stake.
"I need you to focus on the goal at hand and prepare yourself with a very strong academic base.
"Sometimes you look out there and as young people you tend to make bad decisions due to a lack of education and awareness but as you walk away from here today realize that there is a stark danger with un-protected, premarital sex and teen pregnancy and that is the issue of HIV/AIDS.
"Do not allow yourself to become another victim, you need to protect yourself and not go down that road.
"You need to rise above the pressures and educate yourself, you need to be confident and stand up and say no!
"Allow people to respect you based on your standards, values and what you believe in.
"Yes in my day I was not exposed to many of the things you are exposed to today but I do believe you have the strength to rise above it and be successful," Persaud declared.
The health care professional said parental guidance is essential and it is time parents stand up and help their kids as Teen PEP too believes that gone are the days of parents saying to their children to "do as I say and not as I do."
As a community and responsible adults our children are looking to us and we must take the lead. Stop AIDS and keep the promise.
© 2012 The Freeport News