BUSTING HIV MYTHS

Sunday dawned with our first morning off given the difficulty in finding students on a Sunday and after a later breakfast than usual the group split with some taking advantage of the hotel pool while three of us took a stroll in to Musanze centre. The three grew in number along the way as several local teenagers joined us under the guise of wishing to practice their English, although it soon transpired that the main target outcome was that we should buy them each a dictionary. It didn’t happen.

Our leader found Kings Salon, which we feared might be Musanze’s answer to Sweeney Todd – but turned out to be a very effective barbers that even offered a “shower” afterwards. After a quick lunch at the hotel bakery we set off to Sonrise College where we encountered some students who remembered some of what they had learned on CWB’s last trip, particularly the health messages. From Sonrise we moved on to a local Polytechnic where the students drifted in and out of some hastily adapted games which proved a hit– so all in all a fairly light Sunday of CWB action.

However, we had some fantastic conversations with the older pupils at the Polytechnic about when the right time was to start having sex, among other things, and it demonstrated just how much having fun with sport can help teenagers to trust and open up. JS was on fire, facilitating a session in which we discussed all sorts of HIV myths, the contraceptive pill and how it is possible to still have sex without transmitting HIV if you are positive. One girl was keen to know whether she could have a child with someone who was HIV positive and we were able to explain that the virus can be reduced to undetectable levels by taking daily ARVs so the couple can have sex if drugs have been taken for long enough as needed without HIV being passed to the HIV negative partner or the baby if she falls pregnant. However, of course, we recommended a condom be used every time until there is 100% trust and to only have sex without a condom and to seek advice from a family planning expert if they are trying to have a baby.

We also discussed where the local health clinic is for free condoms and put one girl right who was confused about a conversation she’d had with a friend. Her friend thought she could get HIV if she shared a meal with an HIV positive friend and they shared a spoon. Again we explained that was not possible. Naturally the conversation moved on to kissing and whether that can transmit HIV through kissing so again we were able to put right any misconceptions.

As we left the students asked when we would come back, which was a great success as we had to work pretty hard to get them to engage at the start of the session.

In the evening we dined at the Volcano Restaurant where Freddie showed his suspicion of dogs and Frankie informed us that his eighth successive Margherita Pizza in Rwanda was by far the best yet. We are all awaiting Frankie’s publication of ‘Margheritas from around the world’.

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