Zebiniso Muhsinova is only 21. Nevertheless, she conducts her HIV awareness mini-sessions among schoolchildren with the confidence and flair of a prominent trainer.
“Active participation of young people, their eagerness to learn and protect themselves from HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse are amazing. Practice shows that our students are generally aware of these issues; however they lack an in-depth understanding of their consequences, their impact on the human body, and how best to avoid them. I strive to fill these gaps, and feel truly rewarded by their reaction to my sessions.”
UNDP is working with the “Kamolot” Youth Movement – the largest youth organization in the country, with a wide network. They carry out activities all across the country to raise awareness on HIV prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and advocate for a healthy lifestyle.
“As we are peers, young people feel free to approach us with various questions and concerns, share their fears, perceptions and misperceptions on HIV issues. So together, we have a strong foundation to empower them against HIV.”
Since 2011, over 50,000 young people have participated in HIV prevention activities. These include training sessions for peer to peer educators, mini-sessions in schools and colleges, distribution of information materials, and engaging volunteers.
“Young people we educate not only learn, but also engage their friends and peers. Often after the session I am approached by participants, who want to further share what they have learnt. They try to fully master all the knowledge and skills we provide and later conduct their own ‘sessions’ among their friends, peers and family members.”
Rasul Karimov, 20-year old trainer
“Our participants grow both knowledge and a sense of responsibility for their peers: ‘Now I know a lot about HIV, but my friend doesn’t know. I must deliver this information to my friends’.”
Volunteers play an important role in scaling up prevention activities specifically for young people.
“The first time I came as a mini-session participant. The idea of helping my peers avoid risky behavior, make educated choices and stay healthy excited me, so I joined as a volunteer.”
Bakhtiyor Mirkosimov, 18
Over half of Uzbekistan’s 30 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24, so we plan to continue our activities throughout the country – to make sure that young people have the right information to stay happy and healthy.
For details on HIV in Central Asia, see the global report released this week from UNAIDS.