Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo??

Minister with responsibility for youth, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, today advised a group of young women to take control of their lives, protect themselves from contracting HIV and to plan for parenthood.??????

Dr. Byer Suckoo made these comments, while delivering the feature address at a Gender and HIV Workshop for teenage girls, held today at the Harcourt Lewis Auditorium, Belmont Road, St. Michael.

The Minister urged the teenagers to empower and educate themselves, since, as young women living in the Caribbean, they were more vulnerable to contracting HIV.?? "It’s a triple threat. You are young, in the age group that is affected most. You are women, the gender that is now being affected fastest, and you are in the Caribbean, the region that is affected most, second only to Sub Saharan Africa," the Minister told the participants.

Dr. Byer Suckoo emphasised that it was her hope that they would leave the workshop with an understanding of the importance of being able to think for themselves.?? "Know for yourself what it is that you want and just as importantly, know what it is you don’t want…?? Then all of your decisions will fall in line with that – who you have sex with, who you have a relationship with.?? And not everybody you have a relationship with, you have to have sex with… those are decisions that are as much yours, as they are the young man’s," she cautioned.

The Youth Minister reminded the teenagers about other sexually transmitted infections that could also affect them and their future and advocated a life that involved family planning.??

While delivering the welcome address, Acting Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth, called for increased participation of women and girls in the decision-making process and for them to exercise more control over their sexuality. He said: "This is particularly relevant in the current context where it is realised that women are at greater risk of contracting HIV, in both biological and social terms, as they are both physically and socially more vulnerable, and often have little or no power to negotiate safer sex practices with their partners."

The one-day workshop was planned by two 17 year-old students, Shakira Edmond and Sherisse Brewster, who are attached to the Bureau as part of Government’s Students Work Experience Programme.?? The goals were to increase the awareness of female vulnerability to HIV and AIDS, discuss behavioural change and to understand the difference between sex and gender.??

HIV is reported to be on the increase in the female population of the Caribbean, particularly among those in the 15-24 age range. This group is said to be two to three times more likely to be infected than all other age categories.


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