Guyana HIV Prevention Program Helps a Troubled Youth

Guyana HIV Prevention Program Helps a Troubled Youth

Karla came from a troubled home where there was domestic violence, drug use, and general turbulence. She was repeatedly sexually abused by a relative in her home.

In 2008, Karla participated in the In School Youth (ISY) HIV prevention program at her secondary school in Region 4, Guyana.

Agape Network Incorporated, a USAID-funded, faith-based organization, leads the ISY program. Agape receives technical assistance from USAID's Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Program, Phase II (GHARP II), led by Management Sciences for Health with Howard Delafield International and AIDS Healthcare Foundation,

At school, the ISY facilitators observed that Karla was reluctant to participate in the interactive sessions of the ISY program. She was very aggressive and appeared angry.

In one of the ISY sessions, students were asked to anonymously submit one difficult decision that they had had to make. One of the submissions was shocking, as it was about a decision on whether to kill someone. The facilitators of the program presented an open invitation to support the person who had written the note, but no one responded.

A few sessions later, Karla came forward and identified the note as being hers, but refused to divulge anything about her situation. However, the persistence and methodology of the facilitators helped her trust them, and Karla eventually reached out for their support; this initiated a connection that has lasted for the past three years.

Early in the support period, when Karla was in her final year of high school and about to write Caribbean Secondary School Examinations Certificate, she wrote a suicide note which was found by the principal of her school. The principal reached out to an ISY facilitator for help. Personnel from Agape Network hurried to the Georgetown sea walls, and found Karla.

After six hours of counseling, Karla began to feel that her life did have meaning, and rescinded her decision to "end it all" by drowning herself.

Karla began to think about her future, and, with support, was able to successfully complete secondary school. Initially she wanted to be an architect, but the impact of Agape’s assistance in her life led her to decide to become a teacher, so she might positively affect young lives as hers has been.

Karla is now a national athlete who plays professional basketball and has started volunteering with Agape Network, in the ISY program that she credits with saving her life.

In her words, "Agape network showed me how to channel my terrible anger into productivity, and they are the reason I am alive today. Imagine I was heading to the sea walls to drown myself; it felt as though the world had nothing to offer me, and Agape helped me.”

Karla sums up her future as follows: “I see greatness ahead, I want to be a teacher because there are many young people in my community that are experiencing what I experienced, and I want to help save their lives and give them a chance at a bright future, like me."

Mala Persaud, MA, is Health Systems Manager at Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction Program (GHARP II).

Correction, July 17, 2012: This post was originally credited to another author. We updated the post to reflect the correction.