During a short visit to Public Health Institute’s office in Oakland today, Eva Burgos, General Coordinator for GOBelize and a GOJoven fellow from 2004, shared how GOBelize has reached 1,200 rural, out-of-school youth in Belize with HIV prevention training.
According to recent numbers, Belize has the highest prevalence of HIV in Central America with an estimated 3,100 people there living with HIV. During her presentation, entitled, “Youth Leading Youth: Reaching Rural and Out-of-School Youth with Sexual and Reproductive Health Education”, Eva shared how the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) approached GOBelize to train 15-24 year-old rural, out of school youth in HIV prevention.
Upon accepting the assignment, GOBelize did needs assessments and partnered with the Ministry of Health and the local city councils to get buy-in from the community and make sure the trainings were appropriate and acceptable for this demographic. Using the information they gathered during these assessments, Eva and her team adapted the GOJoven training curriculum.
In the rural areas where Eva and her team held trainings, some young people don’t attend school because they are working in the agricultural sector. Eva explained that it’s no easy feat to get these youth to miss two days of work and wages to attend their 2-day training. The only thing that will get them to miss work, Eva told today’s audience, is football (soccer). Realizing this, Eva and her team partnered with local soccer captains who agreed to encourage young men to attend the trainings.
One of the biggest successes of the trainings, aside from the number of youth who participated, Eva explained, was advocating to offer the training to a younger audience. Originally, UNDP stipulated that this project was to be for 15-24 year olds only. After a few trainings, Eva and her team saw that people as young as 11 and 12 were sexually active and/or getting pregnant. GOBelize successfully advocated to expand the reach of the project to include youth as young as 11 years old.
Eva’s visit to Oakland was her first time at the PHI office. When asked what the best part of her visit was, she said, “To be able to put a face to everyone involved and see the teamwork that gets put into these projects. Seeing that passion makes me want to do better. From the CEO to the contracts manager, these people are all linked to the program in different ways.”
We are proud of the work that Eva and her team at GOBelize have done to bring together government systems, local businesses and community leaders to address HIV in youth in Belize.
You can support the work of GOBelize and enable them to offer these trainings to more youth by making a contribution here.