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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Youths Aim to Fight AIDS in Africa
Emma Hulse; Stuart McWhirter
October 23, 2003
Indianapolis Star (10.19.03) - Thursday, October 23, 2003

Teens in Zambia and Ghana are working to empower young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS by sharing information with each other and the world.

At Trendsetters, a youth-run journalism organization in Lusaka, Zambia, a monthly magazine and a free school edition focus on HIV/AIDS and other health concerns for teens. "We try to [make it] fun, funky and everything that interests young people at school," said staff member Peter Nawa, 17. In the past eight years, the magazine has expanded its paid circulation to more than 10,000, making it the highest- circulation monthly publication in Zambia.

Although Trendsetters won the 1997 Global Media Award presented by Washington-based Population Institute and was recognized as a leading youth NGO in Zambia, staff members measure success in a different way. "The public used to condemn [Trendsetters and] its main focus about sex," said Kelly Telebwe, 18. "But now I think people are getting used to it, and they know the importance of informing the public about these issues." Another organization whose mission is to raise HIV/AIDS awareness is Ghana's Gateway Youth Ambassadors, a project of the US-based Children's Christian Storehouse. By conveying their message through song and dance, Gateway works to educate national and international audiences.

According to the UN, only 22 percent of young people in Ghana and 26 percent in Zambia have sufficient knowledge of HIV/AIDS to protect themselves. In Zambia, 32 percent of youths believe HIV can be transmitted supernaturally. And, though 57 percent of Zambian adolescents know a place to get tested, only 4 percent have actually done so.

But the young activists remain undeterred. "[AIDS has] taken away a lot of the people who could've really contributed to making Africa something," said Kapalu Mutenda, 17, of Trendsetters. "But... the more AIDS tries to weaken us, I think the stronger we become."