Campers??browse the??companion cd-rom for the publication ‘Sticks and Stones’ following the ??book launch.

Barbadians have been reminded that the HIV virus is not only a governmental or health problem, but a societal one, which affects every area of our small community.

This reminder came today from a member of the Barbados Government Information Service’s (BGIS) HIV and AIDS Education Committee, Paula Harper, as she addressed the launch of "Sticks and Stones", a children’s book about "HIV and AIDS, Stigma and Discrimination". It is the brainchild of the BGIS’ Committee.

Ms. Harper told her audience, which included young children, that every effort must be made to educate all Barbadians about the virus.

"Not only teenagers and adults, but young children who will grow up to become leaders in our community. The reality is that despite all the efforts of stakeholders to educate and create behavioural change in Barbadians, those gains will be pointless if the issue of stigma and discrimination is not addressed. It threatens to disrupt all of the progress we have made," she lamented.

Speaking specifically about the book and the maxim "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me, Ms. Harper said words did hurt, and "Sticks and Stones" was developed to help educate against that kind of ignorance. "We have heard too many stories of men, women and children abused and neglected due to their perceived status. Family, goodwill and love are often thrown out of the window to be replaced by fear, hatred, gossip and lies," she summised.

The book was written by Barbadian poet and writer, Katy Gash, to teach children about the value of love, family, respect and tolerance. A CD-ROM was created along with the book to provide parents and children with more information on HIV and AIDS.

BGIS’ HIV and AIDS Education Committee was created six years ago to sensitise Barbadians about the virus, using various media. In 2006, it produced the radio drama "Consequences" and the group currently makes donations to the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Food Bank.

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