|This worker told the ladies what he knew about safe sexual practises. (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
When the usual tranquility of the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens was interrupted by loud music and blaring safe sex messages, employees of that Christ Church cemetery put down their tools and gathered around the source to get the facts about HIV and AIDS.??
At the centre of attention was the HIV and AIDS awareness bus from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which was on tour to plantations and constructions sites along the south-east corridor of the island.
Investigator in the HIV and AIDS Project Unit at the Ministry of Labour, Marguerita Worrell, explained that the bus tour was an annual initiative.?? "We go to those hard to reach areas where it is difficult for persons to access information and demonstrations," she said, adding that each year a different route was chosen.
The Labour Investigator noted that once permission was received from employers along the route, her team would engage in informative sessions with employees.?? She pointed out: "When we are at the workplace, we conduct a simple questionnaire with the workers and do demonstrations on how to correctly use both the male and female condom.
"For sure, we try to let the employees know how you can contract HIV, because people have all kinds of myths on how this is done," Ms. Worrell said, stressing that the response from workers was generally good.?? And, judging by the level of interaction between the employees of Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens and the Ministry’s HIV and AIDS awareness team, this certainly was the case.
"It was enlightening!?? I learnt new things about HIV and AIDS," said Mr. F*, an employee at the cemetery admitted.?? Explaining that before the informative sessions he only knew "three of the four ways the HIV virus was transmitted", the 36-year old cemetery worker said he was shocked to learn that "HIV could be passed on through breast milk." He said, "As a man I definitely didn’t know that."????
Senior worker, Mr. P*, declared he had never seen a female condom until the demonstrations. Proclaiming that he practised safe sex by staying faithful to one partner, the 52-year old man also expressed surprise when he learnt that the HIV virus could be transmitted through cuts and sores under a person’s fingernails.
After the condom demonstration, all the male workers had questions about the female condom.?? While some wanted to know which one was the better condom to use; others queried if both condoms should be worn at the same time.??
Peer Educator on HIV and AIDS, Winston Millington was on location to provide them with the answers.?? "The female condom is made from stronger material than the male latex condom.?? It also covers more of the genital than the male condom, reducing contact with bodily fluids.?? While both are safe, the female condom as baggy as it is, is safer than the male condom," he said, furthermore stating that the female condom could also be used by males.
Mr. Millington stressed to workers that during sexual activity only one condom should be worn and not both condoms together.??
Another worker who identified himself only by a nick name stated that he learnt that the letters in HIV and AIDS meant Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, respectively.
When the brief intervention was finished, most workers said that they would be sharing the message with loved ones at home.?? Mr. F* noted he felt that he was now in a better position to educate his 13-year-old son about HIV and AIDS.
"I will speak to my son because he is at that age where he will be curious and he could be easily influenced by others," he admitted.
Investigator, Marguerita Worrell summed up the Labour Ministry’s outreach programme as "effective since it allowed for face-to-face interaction".?? She observed that this approach was effective in dismissing misconceptions and spreading the facts about HIV and AIDS.??
The bus tour also visited Hannay’s and Searles Plantation in Christ Church before it proceeded to Carrington’s Workshop, Four Square, Sunbury, Edgecumbe, Chapel, Mount Pleasant and Three Houses Plantations in St. Philip.??
* The names of the interviewees have been withheld.