A regional float aimed at promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS has just made a stop-over in Accra. The Love Life Caravan aims to educate transport workers along the Abidjan to Lagos transport corridor. The float, which began its journey from Cote d’Ivoire in late November will make a final stop in Lagos Nigeria on the 9th of December. It has been mounting educational campaigns on HIV/AIDS through music and other interactive activities.
In Ghana the float stopped at Abeka Lapaz, a suburb of Accra. It announced its presence through blaring music from an improvised stage, facilitated by an opening on one side of the caravan. Performances by local artists drew people from all walks of life to the open air theatre.
Transport owners were not left out. In fact, the program was held close to a busy bus terminal to encourage their participation. Studies show that most of these drivers spend long periods away from home and are often exposed to the threat of HIV/AIDS through extra marital relations with sex workers.
The Caravan had already visited border towns dominated by transport workers such as Noe in Cote d’Ivoire and Elubo in Ghana. From Accra, it will visit other border towns along the route to Nigeria.
The Coordinator of the Lagos-Abidjan project, Justin Koffi, said the project is the second of its kind, and is supported by Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
“This project is unique because the five countries represent more than 63 percent of the economic weight of the region. And [the leaders] discussed that because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the prosperity of the region could be put in jeopardy, that is why they chose smaller number of countries for the pilot,” he said.
Justin said now that it has proven successful, the project will be replicated in other parts of the region so others can benefit from services provided by the caravan. Such programs include sex education, free distribution of condoms and free voluntary testing and counseling.
The program in Accra was also used to demonstrate usage of both male and female condoms. Some misconceptions about People Living with AIDS were also corrected through drama. A boldly written message on “T” shirts widely distributed and worn at the ceremony read, “hate the virus and not the person infected with it.”
Among the commercial sponsors of the float are the Coca Cola West Africa Foundation, World Bank, the UN and Eco Bank. Justin said so far they have received positive responses from the countries visited.
“ On the 19th we were at Takoradi and people were saying because it was a Sunday people will not come out but we were surprised. Even the queen mother was there playing the MC,” he said.
By the time the program closes in Lagos, the month long float hopes to have covered one hundred million people along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor, distributed one million condoms and conducted ten thousand voluntary HIV tests.
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