The German development agency GIZ is running the global BACKUP Health programme on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to assist health actors in Burkina Faso with specifically addressing young people on the subject of preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. Since 2018, almost 17,000 boys and girls in Burkina Faso have made use of the advisory services and taken voluntary HIV tests.
What is it specifically that you do?
I work in a local health authority in Ouagadougou with a high HIV rate. The virus is especially on the rise among young people. Unfortunately, teenage and unwanted pregnancies are also all too common. Young people are not provided with any practical information on safe sex and contraception. Because I offer them guidance on all aspects of sexuality and HIV prevention, they have come to regard me as an impartial person whom they can trust.
How exactly do you support your young compatriots?
As a young social worker, I interact with my brothers and sisters on an equal footing. I listen to them carefully when they tell me about their fears and concerns. I show them ways to overcome these fears and avoid high-risk behaviour. This helps them develop greater self-confidence, which is key to engaging responsibly with issues of sexuality. In particular, my work should help young women to make and learn to communicate their own decisions.
But isn’t sex education really embarrassing for everyone involved?
I try to create an informal atmosphere. The awareness-raising initiatives are well received by students in the participating schools. Youth centres and one-to-one discussions provide a safe space in which it is easier to build a rapport with young people and, for example, advise them to take a preventative HIV test.
How have you benefited from the work of GIZ?
BACKUP Health financed a training course on reproductive health for 70 selected social workers, run by a local organisation. Ongoing coaching has enabled me to progressively improve my approach. We have worked with the Ministry of Health and civil society organisations to develop a dedicated, preventative advisory approach for young people and introduced it in schools, youth centres and voluntary testing centres.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I hope that my generation will take good care of itself and not spoil its future through recklessness. I intend to set up an online platform in order to reach as many young people as possible with my message. It will offer interesting, multimedia information in conjunction with anonymous, accessible and non-discriminatory advisory services.