Primary school pupils taking part in a quiz led by Behaviour Change Communication specialist at the National HIV/AID Commission, Alexis Nurse (A. Miller/BGIS)

Through its most recent publication, Sticks and Stones, the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) is not only educating children, aged nine to 11 years about HIV-related stigma, discrimination and bullying, but is acquiring much needed information from the children.??

At an interactive session held at the Ministry of Education this week, the characters in the book were brought to life by the group Drama Konnections for the pupils from the eight participating primary schools.?? The children also took part in a quiz led by Behaviour Change Communication specialist at the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Alexis Nurse. Out of this, several HIV-related questions were directed by the children.??

Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer, Sharon Lynch, explained that much time and effort went into the production of the publication.

"The book has been targeted towards school children because we recognise that reaching young minds is vital if we are to change attitudes… All of you students are fortunate because you have had extra information about the issue of stigma and discrimination. I hope that you will now see yourselves as ambassadors in this fight to end discrimination against persons affected with HIV/AIDS," Ms. Lynch expressed.

The session is the second step in the process.?? The organisation’s HIV Education Committee has already, through Systems Consulting Limited, conducted fact-finding interviews with the children to determine their level of education on themes covered in the book.?? In a few weeks, a post-test will be carried out to ascertain if the themes from the book were understood and had an effect on the children’s behaviour.

Both rural and urban primary schools are taking part in the research project -???? Mount Tabor, St. Joseph, St. Catherine’s, George Lamming, Milton Lynch, Ellerton, Roland Edwards and Lawrence T. Gay primary schools.??

According to the Chairperson of the GIS HIV Education Committee, Esther Jones, "beyond this research, we are hoping to further team up with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development to incorporate ???Sticks and Stones’ into the schools’ curriculum, as part of an HIV and AIDS education programme.??We hope to present the full research information at the end of the year at the Commission’s research symposium."

Sticks and Stones was written by Katy Gash, and tells a story of a little boy who is forced to deal with the loss of his parents following a car accident.?? When his friends find out about their death, they believe his parents "died from AIDS". As rumours spread about his family, the young boy becomes ostracised.

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