Risk Reduction methods to curb the spread of HIV was extensively discussed at the recent HIV and AIDS Peer Education workshop held by the Ministry of Labour for public sector employees.?? It was conducted at the Savannah Hotel, Hastings, Christ Church.
Peer Educator, Jennifer Walker, explained that in Barbados, HIV was primarily transmitted through sexual intercourse and therefore Barbadians needed to employ no-risk or low-risk behaviours when engaging in sex.
Noting that abstinence was the best choice, she said: "Some people say it is not a realistic method as it denies the body of its natural urges.?? Some even go as far as to say it impacts the population; but we are encouraging people to at least abstain until they are ready for a safe relationship."
Ms. Walker stressed that once persons entered into a relationship it was important that the partners got tested to know their HIV status.?? "Equally necessary is for the couple to remain faithful to each other," she advocated.??
According to her, being faithful is a good risk reduction choice, but she emphasised: "Once a third party enters the relationship there is a huge chance for HIV infection."
This sparked a debate on whether men or women had the ability to remain in a monogamous relationship.?? Most males at the session said they were confident that their partners were faithful, but argued "some women were smarter than men in cheating".?? While some females present admitted that their gender was indeed smarter, they added they were also safer.
Ms. Walker explained that social and cultural norms usually impacted risk reduction behaviours that persons employed.?? She added that economic pressures, the need to maintain a particular lifestyle, peer pressure, and unresolved or existing problems within a relationship were usually contributing factors to infidelity.
Urging the participants to communicate and to learn their partner’s sexual needs, the Peer Educator said: "Talk with your partner, get to know what is on his or her mind.?? Discuss sexual desires, because this deepens the bond in a relationship.?? People look outside most times when they are not happy."
She also hinted that solo masturbation was another safe choice.?? Pointing out that this no-risk reduction method provides gratification without exposure to HIV, Ms. Walker said: "Some persons, however, regarded it as sinful behaviour".??
Masturbation was widely embraced by the male participants, with most of them describing the no-risk concept as "self-love, in which you give nothing and get nothing".
The Peer Educator further noted that low-risk behaviours were safe, but clarified that persons could receive limited exposure to HIV transmission.?? These methods included vaginal or anal intercourse with a condom, protected oral sex and mutual masturbation.??
"Condoms are not 100 per cent safe, they are manmade," she explained, "Condoms must be used correctly for them to be effective."
Outlining tips on proper condom use, Ms. Walker advised participants to always check the expiry date, inspect the package for damage, never open condoms with the teeth, and they should be only used once.
Stating that condoms were very affordable and accessible, Ms. Walker urged the employees to use no-risk or low-risk reduction methods in their fight to prevent the spread of HIV.
The Ministry of Labour has been hosting a number of peer education workshops on HIV and AIDS throughout the year for public sector workers.