'People not aware of HIV facts'
Christian charity acet UK, marking 30 years of working with people affected and infected by HIV, has warned of new challenges in HIV prevention ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December
ACET was founded in 1988 and delivers relationship and sex education (RSE), trains educators to deliver RSE and supports international partners working in similar fields.
acet UK CEO Sarah Smith said that while advances in HIV medication mean that AIDS is no longer inevitable, the charity's work continues to be 'vital'.
'Many young people today are not aware of the facts around HIV and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Yet we live in a digital culture where pornography is readily accessible, sexting is normalised, and an expectation to ‘perform’ sexually is sadly commonplace amongst many young people. Growing up can be incredibly challenging. acet UK’s Esteem programme encourages young people to see their value, the value of others and how precious sex is.'
acet UK’s Esteem team delivers relationships and sex education in secondary schools, and trains independent educators and organisations across the UK to deliver the Esteem programme. The growing Esteem network of around 100 trained practitioners reached over 32,000 young people in 2019.
Sarah said, 'Changes in technology and smart phone culture have opened up lots of great opportunities for young people, but have also exposed them to a vast array of sexual images and messages that are having a hugely negative influence on how they view relationships and sex.
'Our young people are at risk of experiencing poor relational and sexual well-being. Those working with them in churches and schools need to provide an alternative narrative to help them experience healthy relationships and better sexual health outcomes for their future.'
Following the birth of acet UK in 1988, teams were formed in other countries to challenge the drivers of HIV and care for those living with AIDS. Today, there are independent ACET partners across Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, with acet UK offering support to some of these through fundraising and training.
Looking to the future, acet UK launches its Big Give matched funding initiative in the week following World AIDS Day 2019. The aim is to raise £15,000 in one week to help fund three projects in 2020 that protect vulnerable young people in Sub-Saharan Africa from HIV.
Sarah said that, as in the UK, 'Lack of education is a major problem, as is destructive misinformation from pornography – both of which can lead to risky sexual activity. Sexual gender-based violence is also a key driver of HIV. Orphans, adolescent sex workers and children in areas of high HIV rates are particularly vulnerable.'
To donate to acet UK’s Big Give initiative, click the donate button at www.acet-uk.com between midday 3 December and midday 10 December and your donation will be matched.
acet UK patron, Margaret Sentamu, wife of the Anglican Archbishop of York said, 'As we celebrate this anniversary, we reflect on the privilege it is to be part of the Christian response to HIV. acet UK has shifted attitudes, challenged cultural norms and broken through taboos.'
Image | Vocational skills training in Zimbabwe | acet UK