FIS Team for HIV Prevention-I
South Africa, Gauteng. August 26, 2017
First Stop: Love Matters
A team of five people from the Philippine-FIS travelled all the way to South Africa to immerse themselves in various Salesian programs on HIV prevention for youth. Their first stop is in Bosco Youth Centre near Walkerville in Gauteng.
The program named “Love Matters” began in 2001 by Fr. Francois Dufour to counter the highly secular manner the South African government and even educational institutions have been promoting HIV prevention.
The program aims:
- To provide value based sexuality education to teenagers and help them to appreciate and understand the gift of sexuality and its role in marriage
- To combat the spread of HIV/ AIDS by promoting abstinence and teaching chastity
In an age when AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted diseases have reached alarming proportions, Love Matters is a behavior change program developed from several others, tailor made for South African Youth. With a team of youthful peer ministers the program engages young people in different activities: singing, discussing, role playing, enjoying door activities, praying and creative learning. These are carried out with through catchy youthful themes:
- B Sexy
- B Holy
- B Health
- B Happy
- Be Free
Because Love Matters!
Love Matters is residential FIVE-day sexuality program leading to a firm commitment to responsible choices through a gradual see-judge-act process. It is for teens between 13 and 19 years of age desiring to grow free to say No to negative peer pressure and those yearning to be affirmed in their resolution to have sex for marriage. It is for young people who want reasons why they should not be “sexually active” in their teens; it is also for those who have made mistakes but want to make a new start.
The program has grown and continuously adopts to the changing times in order to answer to the challenge of rescuing young people from being infected by HIV/ AIDS by providing them with correct information and eliminating commonly held myths. It encourages moral responsible sexual behavior among teens, with the chief emphasis on abstinence and fidelity. To date, it has reached over 24, 479 young people, accompanied by 1, 324.
In its first two days, the FIS team had the opportunity to attend a few sessions, sit down with Fr. Francois and Lay Volunteers running the program, meet some speakers, including Tommy Jarvis, 22 year old HIV positive speaker who explained how he he acquired his sickness by birth. Speaking to a group of 70 young girls, he shared how he was abandoned as a child, was diagnosed having HIV at 3. Ever since he has been in antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Growing up in an orphanage run by a faith based group, Tommy has found meaning in sharing his life so kids would not have to suffer the physical and psychological pain he went through. He ended his talk with a strong encouragement: “I have HIV but I’m not going to stay in this dark hole. I choose to climb out of the hole. I choose to write my own story. I choose to be happy.”
The FIS team members feel that these days will be immensely rich with a lot of learning and sharing of experiences from Salesians and lay volunteers.