ASKed and answered

May 11, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – The fight against HIV/AIDS in Kenya is on, and thanks to campaigns like the recent EPUKA, and Jijue 1 Million campaigns amongst others, every day, more Kenyans are sitting up and paying attention to the potential life-changing and fatality of their sexual habits.

Still, with humans’ tendency to believe that bad things only happen to other people, there has been great need for safety messages to be yammered, hammered and pounded into the Kenyan psyche. Repetition is doing its usual successful job, as it does with bored or distracted students in the classroom, but even with high profile television campaigns and condom advertisements, a conscious and permanent change in behaviour is what the goal must be – and the solutions are coming from a source that should make every Kenyan proud.

It isn’t always a reassuring fact, in Kenya, that the future is in the hands of the youth. Not only have our youth not had great examples to follow, in society, but with the mixed bag of serious issues they are growing up with, from absent fathers, abuse and political instability, to widely practiced bad behaviours such as lack of integrity, promiscuity, tribalism and the worship of all things Western, I, for one, had little hope for a truly brighter tomorrow. It is programs like ASK that are boosting my hopes. Perhaps some day, perhaps sooner than we think, this beautiful country will begin to develop its potential.

The ASK Program was created and is run by young Africans in AIESEC (the world’s largest students’ organization) providing Answers, Solutions and Knowledge (ASK) on HIV/AIDS issues. The premise is that the risk of HIV infection is dependent upon the degree to which one practices high-risk behaviour, and one of the essential elements in reversing such behaviour is through education. Owning a problem is always the first step to resolving it, and evidently the African youth haven’t owned HIV/AIDS yet. The millions that are at risk enjoy the campaigns they may have been exposed to, but can’t embrace their reality. Perhaps this is because so few HIV/AIDS initiatives are designed by the youth, for the youth. Conscious of this, ASK has stepped forward and closed ranks, in order to effectively attack this front. ASK aims to turn ignorant potential victims all over Africa into educators and champions against the cause; an immense task, and one that is burdened with responsibility

The Programme’s three-pronged approach includes

•    The recruitment of future champions for the cause, through their education in HIV prevention, in such forums as workshops and working groups

•    Open forums for discussions on HIV/AIDS issues between people from different nationalities and African students of higher and secondary education

•    Arming the African youth by exposing them to case studies and practical experiences guided by international university students, and leading to increased abilities and skills in the prevention of HIV/AIDS

As mentioned, the ASK programme emerged from AISEC, the largest students’ organisation in the world, whose mission is to provide young people with experiences that will develop their individual potential, as well as guide them towards a position where they might have a positive impact on society.

Founded in 1948, AIESEC celebrated 60 years of activating leadership in young people internationally, last year. Having spread into over 100 countries, AIESEC has provided 7,500 leadership positions and delivered over 350 conferences to its growing membership of over 32,000 students. AIESEC also runs an exchange programme that enables over 4,450 students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and work in another country.

AIESEC Kenya has 9 universities known as Local Committees/Chapters including University of Nairobi, Daystar University, Nazarene, Catholic University of East Africa, Kenyatta University, Egerton, USIU, MOI University and Strathmore University.

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