KHF Outreach
Standing against Stigma
5th December 2010

High School Students in Jordan attend HIV/AIDS Awareness Seminar at Jubilee School

Students sport bright red wristbands "Let's Fight AIDS"

150 students from 14 private schools in Amman, Zarqa, and Fuheis stepped off their school buses on Saturday to learn more about HIV/AIDS at an awareness seminar presented by Caritas Jordan, a member of Caritas International, in the auditorium of the King Hussein Foundation's Jubilee School.

The event, which targeted 15-17 year old high school students, was held in recognition of World AIDS Day 2010.

The awareness seminar included information about the difference between HIV and AIDS, some information about how the virus is transmitted, prevented, and treated, and the personal testimony of an HIV-positive patient.

Reaction among students at the end of the HIV/AIDS awareness seminar was mixed.

This 16-year old Jubilee School student said he found the session helpful:

"I didn't know how many people have AIDS in Jordan and outside of Jordan…I learned about how the virus is transmitted and not transmitted…it was very beneficial."

A 15-year old student from Jubilee remarked that the session helped her learn to "differentiate between HIV and AIDS."

Another 16-year student from the Jubilee School noted that he was surprised to learn that most of the reported HIV/AIDS cases in Jordan result from sexual relationships.

Mohammad Al bashiti, who works directly with HIV/AIDS patients through the Ministry of Health's National Aids Program, shared statistics dating from 1986 through December 2nd, 2010 with the students in attendance.

According to Ministry of Health records, a total of 782 people have tested positive for HIV/AIDS in the Kingdom since 1986, of this number 230 were Jordanian. Furthermore statistics show that 2010 has been the highest year of reported cases for Jordanians, with 18 confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS.

The main mode of transmission in cases involving Jordanians after 2000 is heterosexual sex, and the educational status of the majority of the reported cases is university level.

Caritas Jordan Executive Director Wael Suleiman says the awareness session targeted high school students for a reason:

"We believe this age is very important…they have the courage to speak about the problem."

But a 15-year old Jubilee School student remarked that just presenting teens with facts is not enough.

"They didn't mention how can we, as students, as members of the society, help to prevent AIDS, how can we stop AIDS." she said.

At the close of the seminar a 17-year old student summed up his experience as "a great day" in which he learned a lot about AIDS, adding he was impressed by the courage exhibited by the 30-year old HIV-positive patient who stood up in front of the students to talk about his struggle against the stigma that still surrounds HIV/AIDS in Jordan.

The speaker, a hemophiliac, says he became infected 22 years ago through a blood transfusion and the stigma associated with HIV has prevented him from telling anyone besides his mother and wife.

He says he would like to see the government pass a law that would prevent discrimination against HIV-positive patients.

The speaker, who has been taking medication since 2000, says he has not developed full-blown AIDS.

The MOH's Mohammad Al bashiti remarked, "If you want to change the stigma you have to change the mind of the community."

He adds that will require continued training, practice, and workshops:

"It's a very difficult thing but we can do this."

The King Hussein Foundation's Jubilee School, which hosted the event, was founded in 1993 to foster the potential of outstanding students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The school seeks to create a synthesis between education and leadership by enhancing students' academic and social skills to prepare them to enter the next stage of their lives as responsible, knowledgeable and engaged citizens.

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