UN Cares T&T World AIDS Day 2011 commemoration includes families
UN Cares’ observance of World AIDS Day (WAD) 2011 was the ultimate conversation starter. This year United Nations staff in Trinidad and Tobago and their families were invited to take part in a poster and essay competition based on the theme “Getting to Zero – Zero discrimination; Zero AIDS-related deaths; Zero new infections”.
The event attracted artistic submissions from entrants as young as four during the month of November. From the UN ECLAC Conference Room on WAD, staff from across the UN system discussed the issues raised in the pieces while casting their votes for winners in the poster category.
Chair of the UN Cares Trinidad and Tobago Team, Natalie Sydney, explained that the initiative was meant to encourage families to talk about the issues surrounding HIV.
“So much of what we normally do excludes children and UN Cares is really about families as well,” Sydney explained. “This was meant to open discussion about sex and ‘getting to zero’ in the home.”
Diane Quarless, Director of ECLAC, said that the approach was “an excellent way” to engage young people on the issue and said that we all had to “become more comfortable” discussing sex and HIV. Marcia de Castro, UN System Resident Coordinator called for continued emphasis on reaching young people.
“We have a responsibility to look after the young and work with them so that they will become committed to working toward change,” she said.
Izola Garcia, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago updated the gathering on the status of the epidemic, nothing that while there had been a 25 percent drop in new infections in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Belize and Suriname over the last decade, Trinidad and Tobago continues to register about 1200 new infections every year. She added that “Getting to zero” was the strategy embraced by both UNAIDS and UN Cares for the next five year period.
The essay competition was judged by Cedriann Martin of UNAIDS and Kevin Baldeosingh, a columnist and novelist. Martin revealed that entrants explored themes ranging from safe sex negotiation to stigma and discrimination directed toward people living with HIV and sexual minorities.
Roanne Carew of UNDSS won the employee essay competition with a piece that outlined the facts about HIV and global progress in the response. Sydney and Michel de Groulard, both of UNAIDS, tied for second place with fictional entries that both tackled issues such as coming out and combating ignorance about HIV. 17-year-old Josh Lee earned first prize in the 13 – 18 category with an essay about the ideas and practices that slow our journey to ‘zero’. Talisa Thompson, 13, earned second place for her exploration of adolescent sexual decision-making.
Scores from the poster competition judges will be combined with votes from staff to determine the results of the poster competition. Winners will be announced on December 9.
“This needs to be expanded,” noted poster competition judge Michael Phillips. “People are thinking about the issue and formulating it in their minds in order to determine how they express it.”
UN Cares is designed to reduce the impact of HIV on the UN workplace by supporting “universal access” to a comprehensive range of benefits for all UN personnel and their families. These benefits – known as the UN Cares 10 Minimum Standards – include information and education, voluntary counseling and testing, access to male and female condoms, and emergency prevention measures in case of accidental exposure, among others. The Standards also call for increased measures to stop stigma and discrimination.