Students’ Health Action Project (SHAP) is a youth initiative aimed at putting into place a more hands-on approach towards HIV/AIDS awareness. The conventional means applied by other stakeholders send out the same resounding message: ways in which the HIV/AIDS is spread, probable signs and symptoms, prevention and treatment. Though they’ve been successful for the most in terms of putting out the basic information, they sometimes fail to capture the attention of some people and ignore some issues that need to be addressed.
This particular initiative puts into consideration the fact that the message sent out is rather generalized and many still have unanswered questions with regards to the subject at hand despite paying close attention to the messages being given to the general public. Students’ Health Action Project (SHAP) intends to move away from the generalized messages and send out more custom-made messages while providing information basing on the questions for which the beneficiaries require answers.
This is to be done in such a way that a team of individuals sets out to chosen institutions of learning in the selected areas to meet the beneficiaries of the initiative. The meeting in question is set up in such a way that the beneficiaries can have their issues addressed by the team. The beneficiaries from different institutions are then put in a chatroom setting such that even after the meetings have ended their issues can be addressed on a chosen platform through interactive discussions.
Once the numbers grow, the chatroom can further be divided into smaller and more manageable groups in order to keep the discussion flowing and also ensure that majority of the participants stay active which may be a little difficult with a very large group of participants. Since the initiative is a long term strategy, the different chatrooms will be interconnected to form an HIV/AIDS hub where the different issues can be forwarded to be discussed on a larger platform.
This initiative gives the beneficiaries a chance to learn more about the scourge while exchanging information with their peers as a result of the interactive nature of the chatrooms and the hub. Since it is a youth initiative, the beneficiaries are bound to feel more comfortable asking questions and discussing openly as compared to a situation in which someone way older than them is brought forward to address their concerns.
- The team
The PG team will consist of a peer educator, a youth counsellor and a number of volunteers.
The peer educators will be the moderators of the chatrooms and also be in charge of the numerous dialogues and debates that are to be held over time. They will also be tasked with creating and putting together the content and the materials required for the smooth running of the discussions and dialogues. They are therefore responsible for the smooth operation of the chatroom sessions and eventually the hub that will be put in place.
The youth counsellors are meant to oversee the operation of the HCTs. These are trained and qualified personnel who will be available to the beneficiaries during the initial dialogues. Their major role is to answer the questions that the beneficiaries of the initiative pause and also provide free counselling services to those who might require the service at that particular time. The counsellors are not necessarily part of the chatrooms or the hub per say but will be available to answer all questions and tackle all issues that arise from the different discussions.
The volunteers are members of the PG team who are passionate about the cause and are willing to lend a hand where possible. Their major role is to make the beneficiaries feel at ease with the youth counsellor and the peer educators. They can however, take on various roles when called upon.
- The Target Population
As earlier stated, the initiative aims at increasing the HIV/AIDS awareness within the youth, particularly in universities and institutions in areas surrounding the stated universities. For the start, the initiative will focus on universities in the central region of Uganda namely in the districts of Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka and Mukono. Once the pilot has been run successfully, the initiative will be extended to other regions in the country with an aim of creating more chatrooms hence expanding the hub and subsequently increasing the coverage of the program.
The focus is on this particular group because it goes without saying that people in this age group live rather liberal lives especially with regards to their sexuality as compared to the generations before them. It is true that there is a lot of information going around with regards to the spread of the virus but as stated earlier, the information provided has gaps. It should be taken into account that PMTCT was successfully launched in 1994 so many of the people born after that year were born free of the virus. Those born prior to that year however were not as lucky. Due to the reckless nature of the highly sexualized relationships that the people in the said age gap engage in, it is necessary to sensitize both sets of individuals (pre and post PMTCT) about the risk factors that are present. One cannot ignore the fact that chances of the two sets of individuals getting involved sexually are high thereby increasing on the number of new infections. With this initiative, the organization attempts to provide the necessary information on a more personal basis using face to face interaction