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Speak Up! Speak Out! Building HIV and AIDS Awareness among Jamaican School Children



Background and Purpose: The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Health and other ministries, assisted by international funding agencies and members of non-governmental organizations, has diligently led the charge to reduce the incidence of HIV and AIDS in Jamaica. Yet, the continued escalation in the infection rate attested to the need for education towards the reduction of stigma and discrimination, factors that fuel the spread of the virus. Significant efforts were made to woo corporations in Jamaica to redouble their efforts and provide resources to address the continued escalation of the AIDS epidemic in Jamaica. Scotiabank Jamaica responded with a unique educational initiative.

Methods: The Scotiabank National Primary Schools HIV and AIDS Debating Competition in 2006–2007 was conducted over a seven-month period. It was opened to primary-level, government and private institutions islandwide.

Results: A total of 91 institutions competed with each other, debating 16 moots (ie topics) in 417 debates from the first preliminary rounds through to the final. Moots reflected curricular and extracurricular concerns, emphasized the values of compassion, healthy lifestyles, critical thinking and child rights; they also sent messages of anti-discrimination, and parental and community responsibilities. Whereas communication between the organizers and the schools was sometimes challenging, schools subscribed to the activity (debates) for the awareness it brought and for the potential for developing students. Attempts were also made to raise awareness among teachers, parents and the general community.

Conclusion: Feedback at the end acclaimed the debates as a valuable strategy for building awareness as well as development of student potential and unity around a common cause.

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e-Published: 19 Jul, 2013
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