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Skills For a Life, an HIV/AIDS and sexual health education programme for young people with learning disabilities, was officially launched this morning (Nov.1) at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.
The programme is an initiative of 3D Projects, a St. Catherine-based community rehabilitation service dedicated to the development of persons with disabilities, with support from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
It is geared towards providing information on HIV/AIDS, relationships, sex and sexuality, safer sex choices and decision making to young persons with intellectual challenges.
In his address at the launch, Managing Director of Projects at 3D, Gerlin Bean, lamented the lack of information on sexual health for young people with disabilities. “Children with disabilities are not given the same treatment.we must bear in mind that sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS do affect them,” she said.
In his remarks, State Minister for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, commended 3D Projects for its vision and noted that the initiative would enhance government’s efforts to reach out to the disabled community.
He further called for the disabled to be included in all aspects of society, with programmes on sexual education designed for their special needs, as gone were the days of the disabled persons being forced to stay at home and being left in the dark on sexual issues.
“The disabled is entitled to be involved.what we have to do is to educate them. We owe it to give protection to them,” Senator Morris stated, pointing to the need for persons with disabilities to be educated about the dangers of unprotected sex and other dangerous sexual practices.
“This project will redound for the greater good of all persons with disabilities across the nation. We are committed to ensuring that it is a success,” Senator Morris added.
Meanwhile, Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative lauded the programme as groundbreaking, noting that it stood to further break down barriers, which prevented disabled persons from accessing the same level of development as able bodied persons.
“The Skills For Life materials contribute to put children in the centre of the response to HIV/AIDS and address the rights and needs of those living with disabilities,” he emphasized.
A comprehensive resource package inclusive of a facilitator’s guide, activities work packet, a videocassette and DVD illustrating appropriate sexual health behaviour and posters has been made available by 3D. UNICEF, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), provided technical and financial assistance for the programme.
Other agencies involved include Children First, Child Development Agency (CIDA), School of Hope, Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture and the Ministry of Health.
In addition to its headquarters in St. Catherine, 3D Projects has offices in Portland, Manchester, St. Mary and St. Thomas. The organization caters to both children and adults with disabilities.