Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley (FP)??

The Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth has made another significant step in its drive to educate the public about HIV and AIDS. This time, efforts have come in the form of a comic book entitled "Chain Links".

The book was launched and then distributed to a number of youth organisations yesterday by Minister Stephen Lashley, at the Desmond Haynes Sports Complex.

Chain Links was conceptualised by Youth Commissioner, Monique James, who is also a trained HIV and AIDS educator. Her idea was then developed with the assistance of artist William Austin and members of the Haynesville community, to produce the three-part comic book which aims to effect behavioural change, particularly among young people.

To captivate the interest of the younger community, the book utilises "street language", and the script and images were reviewed by several young people prior to printing, to ensure that it would attract the interest of the desired audience.

During his address, Mr. Lashley described the comic book as a "creative medium…to be used as an unconventional community intervention tool.

"This dreaded disease is not going to go away anytime soon and, therefore, all of us must take full responsibility for how we respond to this pandemic. Project Chain Links adds a strong visual dimension to some of the everyday happenings in our society and explores the choices made by us as human beings, which can sometimes have a devastating impact on our lives," the Minister stated.

He said the distribution and reading of the comic book would not signal the end of the project, but noted that there were three phases to ensure that objectives were met.

"Phase one is the sensitisation phase, which takes the form of several discussions and focus groups at the community level, focusing on HIV and AIDS awareness…The second phase would take the form of various discussions surrounding key areas in the storyline. This will allow the young persons to explore and examine decision making skills and consequences to certain behaviours.?? The third phase will be the identification and training of a selected group of young persons to be trained as Peer Educators, through the use of other creative media," the Youth Minister outlined.

Mr. Lashley urged those in attendance to "be pioneers within this community" and encourage other communities to join the battle to change the whole concept of HIV and AIDS."

Among those who were on hand to receive copies of "Chain Links" were members of the Lamming Netball Team, Haynesville Youth Club, Sion Hill Netball Club, Agape Community Connections Inc., Holders Hill 4H Club, Pioneers for Christ and the Holders Hill Football Team.


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