Aids Foundation enlists help of youth group – Free HIV testing on Saturday in Cole Bay

POSTED: 09/27/12 12:00 PM

St. Maarten – In an effort to get the youth involved in HIV/Aids awareness causes, the St. Maarten Aids Foundation has enlisted the support of the Salvation Army Youth group to assist in spreading the message and encouraging residents to get tested at the next public testing. The next testing day is planned for Saturday at the Charles Leopold Bell Primary School in Cole Bay from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

The youth group of the Salvation Army in Cole Bay played host to the St Maarten Aids Foundation on Friday night. President and founder Dr. Gerard Van Osch led a frank presentation on HIV and Aids to the group to heighten awareness of the infection and to inform them of ways to protect themselves.

They were then led in a couple of games that made the youth realize that HIV can affect anyone and everyone if they act without thinking through possible consequences. The initiative was meant to be a prelude to this weekend’s testing day.

“We view the youth group of the Salvation Army as community ambassadors. They may be young but they are out there, they are street-smart, and can play a leadership role in getting their peers, family and friends to become more aware of the benefits of getting tested for HIV, ” Dr. Van Osch said.

Captain Jona Yangli Augusto, the commanding officer for the Salvation Army in St Maarten, added: “I think the evening was a success. Afterwards, everyone talked very positively about the presentation and the games they played. For some this was the first opportunity to learn about HIV and Aids, and they were very receptive to the idea of taking charge of their health. I hope we can work together more often in the near future and reach out to more people in our communities.”

Saturday’s HIV testing will be free and confidential.

“We tested 220 people back in June. We are encouraged to see so many people come, especially young people that come in groups of friends. HIV testing is not something scary, it’s something that should be routine for anyone wanting to stay healthy. We are hoping for another big turnout this weekend,” Dr. Van Osch noted.

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