The workshop held by The Child Protection Alliance, CPA, last Thursday in Brikama Misra in Western Region was a source of vital information and advice. The workshop was organised as part of the group's awareness campaign on the links between commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and HIV/AIDS. This is an area of vital importance and no stone must be left unturned in addressing the problem. As was said at the conference the children of this nation are its future and must be accorded the utmost protection. Awareness of a problem is the first step to fighting it so the fact that this conference has taken place in definitely a step in the right direction.
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. This is both a salient and well put point. Those in authority must take heed of this fact and do everything to ensure that all the above mentioned groups do their utmost to protect our future leaders. It is also extremely important that the issues of social stigma with regard to HIV tests be addressed.
According to 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." This last statement is deeply disheartening. It also highlights the severe risks we face with regard to the spread of this terrible disease.
It does however highlight the urgent need to act quickly in order to address this issue. Our children are suffering and the longer we wait to address this issue the more we fail them.