Youth cycle to raise awareness about AIDS [Archives:2008/1213/Local News]

December 4 2008

By: Ali Saeed
SANA'A, Dec. 3 – In line with World AIDS Day activities, five hundred secondary and primary school students participated in the National AIDS Control Program's first-ever cycling race in Sana'a last Monday to promote HIV and AIDS awareness.

The cycling race, organized by Yemen's National AIDS Control Program accredited to the Ministry of Health and in cooperation with the Yemeni Bicycle League, was the first initiative of its kind. Participants started from Al-Sabaeen square and toured the city before finishing back at its starting point about an hour later. Although the students themselves were not sure about the purpose of the race and did not have adequate information on HIV and AIDS, they were excited to participate in such an event especially that very few sports activities of the like are organized.

During the race, organizers distributed leaflets containing information about AIDS, including the causes, symptoms, modes of transmission and protection from the disease. The leaflets stressed the ways that AIDS is not transmitted and discussed society's reaction to those who are HIV positive.

According to the latest statistics, up to 2,431 cases were reported in Yemen up to mid-2008. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates cases to have reached 23,000 in the country and experts believe that, out of 20 cases, only one is generally reported.

The leaflet distributed during the race pointed out the consultancy service offered by the National AIDS Control Program to help youth obtain information about the disease, and encouraged them to volunteer for a free test to establish whether they are HIV positive or not in one of its centers in Sana'a, Hadramout, Hodeidah, Taiz, Ibb, Thamar and Aden.

At the end of the race, the National AIDS Control Program awarded its winners. Posters inscribed with the slogan “Leaders keep your promises, stop AIDS” were posted on the walls of Al-Sabaeen square.

According to the manager of the National AIDS Control Program, Abdulhameed Al-Suhaibi, the cycling race aimed to spread awareness among youth to stop and stand up against AIDS. “Instead of lecturing about AIDS in closed halls, this time we decided to go out and attract public attention to the danger of AIDS.”

“We are focusing on youth, because they are the affected category in the community,” Al-Suhaibi said, adding that the National AIDS Control Program was to hold awareness lectures about AIDS in schools and more public venues in the near future.

In another youth-led initiative held on the same day, youth were trained in methods of raising awareness about AIDS and its prevention at a workshop entitled “Youth Leadership and AIDS” organized by the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) at the Democracy School in Sana'a.

Globally, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV, with nearly 7500 new infections each day, according to WHO.