THE DESIRE for “bling” and showy possessions are the two main factors driving the precocious sexual activity among secondary and tertiary school students. Behaviour change consultant to the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Marilyn Sealy, disclosed this and other findings at the commission’s research symposium yesterday at Hilton Barbados. From a three-year study that examined the theme, “Risk Perception And Sexual Practices Among Teenagers In Barbados,” she stated that 85% of the participants interviewed who were between the ages of 15 and 18 were sexually active. The National HIV/AIDS Commission of Barbados, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, facilitated the whole-day seminar which examined many of the issues dealing with HIV/AIDS in Barbados, and by extension the wider Caribbean community.
“15% cited clothes, money and peer pressure as factors leading to sexual activity . . . . It’s interesting to see how they get their clothes and bus fare for school; sex is a big factor. That’s how they make their money and how their parents pay their bills.” The 2004 study took place during the Crop-Over Festival period where the researchers were present at official events and theme parties. Several risqué photographs taken on site were displayed yesterday highlighting sexually explicit positions and revealing attire. This prompted Sealy to make links between rape and scantily clad women, as well as, the music culture and promiscuity. Sealy also stated that results from the study showed that the level of HIV/AIDS awareness was elevated, but most believed they were exempt from the disease; the notion was it primarily befalls prostitutes or homosexuals.
The investigation also highlighted that, despite the high awareness of the dangers involved, “Barbadian youths continue to practice early sexual initiation, multiple sexual partners and non-use of condoms”. She also spoke to high levels of ignorance surrounding sexual relations. “Their sexual practices were mostly unprotected and included anal, oral, and vaginal sex,” she noted. A lot of young people indicated that if they practiced anal sex then they would remain virgins. They felt their hymen would still be intact, Sealy added.
Source: Nation Newspaper
On the 25th September 2007, BU highlighted the cry by a leading Sexually Transmittal Infection (STI) Specialist in Barbados, Dr.Vijaya Thani. In that article her concerns about the lifestyle behaviour of our teenagers was evident. We continue to be very concern about the inability of the relevant agencies in Barbados to make an impression on our youths. They need to initiate lifestyle changes in order to arrest the spread of HIV and AIDS. We highlighted that the responsibility for HIV/AIDS falls under the portfolio of no less a person than Prime Minister Owen Arthur who took charge in 2001. He has appointed the very eminently qualified Dr. Carol Jacobs who has had access to a World Bank loan of USD15.5 million dollars to disseminate her message. It has now been over 6 years; based on feedback from Dr. Thani and scientific research by Marilyn Sealy – Change Consultant at the National HIV/AIDS Commission our young people continue to engage in sexual behaviour which demonstrates a high order of ignorance. As Barbadians when we reconcile the sexual behavior of our youth to what our authorities would have the world believe that we are an educated people, the great paradox is evident for all Barbadians to ruminate.
Where do we go from here?
If we are to evaluate the performance of the Prime Minister and Dr. Carol Jacobs given the abysmal results of the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to date, the logical reaction by concerned Barbadians should be to ask both individuals to resign from their respective positions and give others a chance to perform such tasks. We do not think that it is an unreasonable request to make. Performance and only performance should be the main factor to determine whether individuals remain in jobs. Barbados, with its recent reports in the media, occupy a high global position as far as the number of Barbadians suffering with communicable and non-communicable diseases. When will Barbados, as a small country, which aspires to First World status by 2025, realizing that the date keeps shifting, get up and start to grab our society back from the precipice of destruction. If readers believe that we are alarmists then they should have a look at the current state of many African countries. We all know that for any country to achieve First World status the issue of productivity of our people must be a priority. We know that any nation which is infected with high levels of HIV/AIDS will see a compromise in its ability to produce at a high level.
It is no Secret
It is no secret that the lifestyle behaviour which Marilyn Sealy – Consultant HIV/AIDS Commission highlighted at the recent seminar also exist within our adult population. Barbados is a small rock and the business of our friends and neighbours is well known. The promiscuity which occurs in Barbados on a daily basis would make for a successful soap opera production to rival the “Bold & Beautiful” and the “Young and the Restless.” Regrettably, although reputed to be an educated nation, we continue to bury our heads in the sand and pray that our HIV/AIDS problems would fade away.
We are too intelligent a people to remain focus on politics only. The social well being of our little island must begin to take centre stage. We know that people nowadays hate it when old farts like us moralize, but that is ok. How do we solve the great paradox that confronts us? People are aware of the dangers of unprotected sex but they don’t care anyway. Who will lead us?