It is easier for girls and women to become infected with HIV.

That is one of the major lessons 40 girls learnt when they participated in the Barbados Government Information Service???s (BGIS) Girls Aloud: Sex, Gender and HIV workshop, held recently at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church.

The event was one in a series of sensitisation sessions hosted by the HIV Education Committee of the BGIS, and catered to girls aged 15 to 21.

Behaviour Change Communications Specialist of the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Alexis Nurse, explained: ???Girls are biologically predisposed to contracting HIV because sex takes place inside their bodies.???

Pointing out that the HIV virus could only be transferred through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk, she told the girls that the highest concentration of HIV was found in blood, making it the most infectious bodily fluid. Semen contained the second highest concentration of HIV.

This has huge implications for girls, Ms. Nurse said. ???Semen is what the sperm swims in; it is not the sperm that is infectious. So, if you are having unprotected sex with an infected man and he ejaculates inside of you, you get a large dose of semen and that is what is able to transmit HIV…,??? she warned.

The Behaviour Change Communications Specialist cautioned against having rough sex, as this could also increase a female???s chances of contracting HIV. “Rough sex damages the vagina and can cause cuts or bruises, leaving entrances for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to enter the body.???

Stressing that abstinence was the best way to protect oneself against HIV and STIs, she advised the girls to think carefully before having sex. She added it was equally important to have a discussion with the potential partner about protection.

???Most people are worried about getting pregnant after having unprotected sex. You could have a baby and survive and everything could be fine. We think about pregnancy because people can see it and they would know we had sex??? But, you can get HIV and have a different life the rest of your life or you could get an STI and never be able to get a baby. So if you are going to have sex, these are things you need to be thinking about,??? the HIV expert emphasised.

She urged the girls to discuss contraceptives and protection methods and insisted that condom use was effective in protecting against STIs, HIV and pregnancy.

Ms. Nurse asked the girls: ???Are you in a position to argue the case for using condoms? Are you going to be able to stick it out if he asks for a little without a condom? Are you strong enough to say no sex at all without a condom?

???You must think and plan for these things before you have sex because when we are in love with someone, he or she can persuade us to do a lot of stuff we never thought we would do,??? she cautioned.??She further encouraged the girls to love themselves first. ???You are the most important person in a relationship. If you don???t respect yourself, he won???t respect you.???

Moreover, she said: ???In life, we all make mistakes, but you don???t want to make mistakes that you can???t come back from???you want to make mistakes that we can learn from and move on.?????The HIV Expert implored the girls to reflect on HIV and STIs when thinking about sex in the same way many young women were concerned about being pregnant.

???Say to yourself, if I have unprotected sex, these are the [possible] consequences: pregnancy, STIs and HIV,??? Ms. Nurse reiterated. The BGIS will host its next HIV sensitisation session entitled: Man Talk, for men over the age of 18, on Saturday, October 4, at Sylvester’s, Pelican Village, Princess Alice Highway, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Facilitator and motivational speaker, Tony Olton; HIV Educator, Sade Leon-Folkes; PAREDOS representative, Leroy Gibbs; and artiste, Damian “Bobo” Bowen, will address the session.??Interested persons should register by contacting the BGIS at 427-4853 or 426-2232.

Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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