In September, I enjoyed a discussion with a group of six young people from Chisala area in Nkhata Bay district. Our main focus of discussion was on HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and young people.
There are so many things which young people should not dare do in their lives. However, in this entry, I have carefully selected only a few.
It is an undeniable fact that HIV and AIDS is one of the most perplexing enigmas of our time. Every day, the lethal virus is menacing one precious life after another. It still has no cure but relief lies in the fact that we know how it is spread. There is no need to underscore the fact that up to now, the disease has no cure and the quest for an antidote is still on. In this light, the window of hope lies in the youth of today. The world expects them to remodel their lives styles so as to have an HIV/AIDS free generation in the years to come.
In the aforementioned round table I had with my young friends on HIV/AIDS and the youth, the following transpired;
Firstly, my young friends from Chisala stated that young people should avoid having sex as one way of preventing themselves from contracting the virus (HIV). 15 year old Ted was deadly serious and added that most young people of Malawi take sex as just a form of entertainment. His other buddies were in total agreement and almost each one of them was telling me how he thinks young people perceive sex and the most notable ones being ‘a game’, an experimental procedure’ and ‘a hobby’.
I was not really sure and I now wish I had asked whether abstinence came first as an unwritten agreement between them. One thing that kept me amazed is the fact that these youngsters, whom I am glorifying in this entry, gave me an impression that they find time to discuss and seek expert opinions on matters concerning their Sexual and Reproductive Health. This trait is very rare among young people of today who are more interested in what they call Swagger and all that but not their Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Secondly, the young friends of mine, whom chance only allowed them to bask in the reverence of me for only four days, mentioned that the youth should avoid the tendency of shunning HTC Services that are provided free of charge in most public health facilities.
My four-day young and bright friends told me that most of their peers believe that HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC) is not for young people. I was told that most adolescents, sadly, believe with firm conviction that young people, even those above the age of 13, are not allowed to go for HTC in hospitals. They also think that going for HIV Counselling is only for married couples.
I was very much awed by this kind of perception and I reserved my comment. It was time for my friends to tell me how the situation is like in their area. Furthermore, I really wanted to get as many responses as possible from this group more especially on things which young people should not do in their lives.
On a third note, it was time for Raphael who seemed a bit reticent during the roundtable discussion until at this particular point. I immediately noticed that a cap that was on his head, covering his eyes had some scribbles worth a read. The writing on his hat read ‘H.A.T’ and below was a full meaning of the acronym – Hungry Angry Tiger! Without asking, he told me that what is written on his hat also happens to be his alias.
The boy codenamed H.A.T stated that young people should stay away from ‘Nanzi’ (Indian hemp). He further explained that Nanzi and alcohol abuse are two vices that compel young people to think in a roundabout manner. He said once young people are under the influence of one or both, they indulge in casual sex, vandalism and other bad things.
His esteemed friends chipped in and they said in a chorus that alcohol is not really bad but when an underage gulps the stuff down his or her throat it disturbs the mind like cocaine. They said the consequences are always disastrous and they strongly advocated against the use of Indian hemp and underage drinking.
After our first fruitful discussion that afternoon, I was scheduled to meet them again after sunset. I was supposed to do a screening of several films and among them was a YONECO, PFP and Temwa film called Mawa Langa (My Tomorrow). Luckily, the film had very important HIV and AIDS messages to young people- young people like H.A.T, Ted and the others!