KINGSTON, Jamaica – Counterpart International is partnering with the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Company and the Jamaica-based ASHE Caribbean Performing Arts Ensemble to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and behavior change among young people in Jamaica.
The six month “Teens HIV/AIDS Prevention Project” was launched in Kingston to promote comprehensive life skills education through youth-led training, and a referral system for youth-friendly services.
ASHE, working alongside Counterpart International’s HIV/AIDS specialist Dr. Youssouf Sawadogo, will coach and promote the creation of HIV Awareness Clubs for youth peer education, training, support and skills building.
Lisa-Ann Joseph, Caribbean Public Affairs and Communications Manager at the Coca-Cola Company, said that the project will aim to help Jamaican teenagers cope with life’s challenges. These, she said, include the political, economic and social conditions that place them in peril and make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, exploitation and violence.
Noting that AIDS is the leading cause of death in women aged 20-29 and second leading cause of death in children aged 1-4 in Jamaica, Joseph said research has shown that HIV/AIDS transmission knowledge is low among adolescents in Jamaica. The pilot aims to address this.
The Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Company have been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, and have been at the forefront of the business sector in championing HIV/AIDS workplace policies, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs. The Jamaica pilot project is the first initiative being supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Company outside of Africa.
Jamaican Minister of Health, John Junor said “Coca-Cola will be a beacon for other private sector companies to follow”. Thanking the company for an initiative which will make a difference in the quality and quantity of information reaching young people, he hoped that Coca-Cola’s leadership will motivate others in the private sector in Jamaica and the region “to take on the challenge of teen HIV/AIDS”.
The project, the minister noted, “will complement the establishment of a national HIV/AIDS policy in schools and efforts to broaden public education on HIV AIDS and impact behaviours in situations related to workplace and public institutions”.
Dr. Basil Springer, Chairman of Counterpart Caribbean, praised Coca-Cola for putting “the power of its brand, with all its positive connotations to so many young people, behind this project to generate awareness among young Jamaicans about the dangers of the virus and its transmission.”
Lisa Ann Joseph said that commitment to the development of communities, in which Coca-Cola employees live and work, is an essential part of the company’s vision for sustainable growth of the business. Noting that Coca-Cola has always endeavoured to conduct business responsibly and ethically, she added “we have long been committed to enriching the workplace, preserving and protecting the environment and strengthening the communities where we operate”.