Red Cross youth discuss “the real deal” of HIV/AIDS on air

Published: 7 October 2005 0:00 CET

Raymond Syms in Trinidad

For an hour and a half, two Saturdays a month, a youth-oriented radio station in Belize City, Belize that promises “More Music on your Radio Everyday” lowers the sound levels to allow for more serious talk.

Taking control of the MORE FM 94.7 and 107.1 console, and sliding behind the microphones are enthusiastic members of the youth arm of the Belize Red Cross.

The topic – as always – is HIV/AIDS.
The name of the radio program is “The Real Deal” and for the 90 minute session, these youth volunteers hope to educate listening peers with critical HIV/AIDS information, but have fun while doing it.

Two members trained in the region’s HIV/AIDS Together We Can (TWC) Program host the 10 to 11.30 morning slot with the support of TWC Program coordinator, Cherene Valerio. The radio program was Valerio’s idea.

TWC is a peer-to-peer HIV education and prevention program started in Jamaica in 1993. Its methodology has clearly worked over the years, so much so that it was introduced and accepted by other National Societies in the Caribbean, spread to Central America, and even as far away as Africa.
The Norwegian Red Cross and Netherlands Red Cross have been assisting the program. UNICEF has also been involved.

Valerio says Real Deal, which first aired May 23, is reaching young people with its message. “In my opinion, it’s an opportunity for young people to take strong steps in the process of educating their peers and lead by example.”

Valerio says their goals are simple: disseminate critical information about HIV/AIDS using innovative methods; create a forum whereby listeners can engage in discussion, thereby developing their public speaking and leadership skills; provide a medium for other organizations to promote their work; and allow out-of-school or uneducated youth the opportunity to speak out.

The last point is important for Valerio. She says people assume that because some youth haven’t had a formal education they’re “unaware of the issues affecting you as an individual. However there are young people who make the reality of a situation more clear to a larger population because they are able to get down to the level of other young people and speak the truth. No cover up. Just raw truth.”

A new topic is prepared for each show. Titles of recent programmes were “HIV/AIDS Myths and Facts”, “Livin for Lovin or Nun for Now”, and “Kicking It without Risking It”. Relevant experts are also invited to join the team in studio.

To keep listener interest, there are two segments:
“What’s Happening” promotes local artistes who are invited to send in their music, which is relevant to the topic. This segment also gives an opportunity to other organizations to highlight their HIV/AIDS work. Some organizations that have been on the show are the Belize Family Life Association, the Pan American Social Marketing Organisation, the Belize National Aids Commission, and the Youth Enhancement Services.

The other segment gives listeners a chance to win giveaways, once they answer correctly questions based on information discussed on previous shows.

“The show is a lot of work and it takes effort and time to be a really successful show,” says Valerio. “But the young people are so enthusiastic about it, they make it worth it…”

Real Deal can be heard online.