The Child Protection Alliance, CPA, last Thursday held a workshop at Brikama Misra in Western Region as part of their awareness campaign on the links between commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and HIV/AIDS.
The forum, held at the Women Advancement and Child Care (WACC) office, was attended by a cross section of the community mostly women and young people.
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Njundu Drammeh, national coordinator of CPA, informed the gathering that the children are the future leaders of the country but for them to have a brighter future they must be prepared and protected today by their parents, societies, government and schools.
He informed the participants about a research carried out by ECAPT international to assess the links between the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and HIV/AIDS. The research, he added, was conducted in many countries in Africa including The Gambia in which CPA played a key role. Brikama, he said, was one of the areas covered in The Gambia during the research and that coming back to share the findings with them is vital.
Samba Njie, youth coordinator of CPA, commended the participants for the large turnout adding that is a manifestation of their commitment to the welfare of their children.
In his presentation, Mr. Drammeh dilated on issues such as child rights, child exploitation and sexual abuse. He told the gathering that everybody has a role to play in order to protect children from all forms of abuse and exploitation. He reminded the audience that child abuse and exploitation takes place in homes, schools and communities thus the need to avert the situation.
Meanwhile, according to the research findings, among the CSEC victims interviewed in the country besides fear of discrimination, some children mentioned different reasons for their reluctance to take screening tests and access support services. Some said that if you go to the hospital for an HIV test, before they tell you the result they frighten you. Others didn't believe in it and some said they don't have time for it and another said "because I know if my time is up I will die."
The report listed some of the following as the factors in increasing the vulnerability of CSEC victims to HIV/AIDS.
It says that CSEC victims are powerless to negotiate safe sex, rarely seek medical help, limited access to condoms, have insufficient knowledge about HIV/AIDS and CSEC victims desperate to survive, do not see HIV/AIDS prevention as a priority.
The report recommended more HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention services, HIV/AIDS and support services, targeting CESC victims and vulnerable/at risk children and targeting the demand side that is the exploiters.