ChildHope's Brazilian partners Projeto Legal and Promundo are working in poor communities 'favelas' in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to reduce sexual exploitation of children and young people. This DfID-funded four-year project started in late 2011 and aims to increase understanding of issues related to exploitation, challenge social norms, and support young people to access health and education services.
Young people and HIV in Brazil67% of the 90 million young people in Brazil are estimated to live in poverty (IBGE 2008). HIV infection rates in Brazil are characterised as low in the general population. However, the National HIV prevalence of 0.61% to climbs to over 5% within high risk groups including young people involved in sex work, particularly girls (Brazilian Ministry of Health, 2010)
The Brazilian Statute for Children and Young People Article 244 prohibits prostitution and sexual exploitation of minors under 18. But socio-economic inequalities in society drive young people into risky activities for survival.
"They think½what will I do? Stay here for the insects to eat me? Therefore, do it [sex work]"
"Sometimes it is like this, you are very poor, don't have money to buy something for the home, a lot of the time it happens like that"
(quotes from young women interviewed in Rio)The current project began by talking to young people, health professionals and community leaders to understand the realities in poor communities, linked risky sexual behaviours to poverty and a lack of understanding of rights and avenues for support.
Empowering young people to make better choicesIn a study with 600 young people, Projeto Legal and Promundo actually found that most young people do have knowledge of methods of prevention of HIV and sexual transmitted infections:
"For those who do not protect themselves these days it's because they don't want to, they really don't, there is a health post that has lots of condoms"
(young women in Rio de Janeiro)However lack of empowerment and aspirations lead them to make risky choices. In the project, 400 young people will participate in workshops, and carry out community campaigns to empower their peers to make safer choices and raise their aspirations. Peer educators will also run training on rights, gender equality, reproductive and sexual health. Right now, young people are rehearsing a theatre play to do just this.
A holistic approach to violence, poverty and HIVChildHope's Brazilian partners work in often violent communities.
"There exists a degree of vulnerability, of risk, this we understand everyday here"
(young person)Violence acts as a barrier to involvement in education and disrupts services. Parents and community leaders are being mobilised to create a better environment for dialogue to protect their children from risks of violence and sexual exploitation.
To create wider change, the project will work with young people's forums and civil society organisations to develop a collective voice to advocate for the implementation of laws to punish adults who exploit vulnerable children and young people from the risks of disease and psychological damage.
The project will work to prevent the spread of HIV in young people by creating a whole system response. Dialogue about prevention is set in the context of creating an environment where young people are able to make informed choices by reducing gender inequality, and increasing access to reproductive health and education services including specialised services for young people who have been victims of violence and sexual exploitation.