I volunteered with AIDS Bow Valley this past Monday in the Grade 8 and 9 female gym classes at the local high school here in Banff (yes, there is only one!) We ran a variety of stations and games to introduce the girls to HIV/AIDS and the causes, symptoms, myths, facts, and prevention mechanisms associated with the virus.
I was so pleased by their enthusiasm, and also their awareness of HIV/AIDS already. As HIV/AIDS is a complicated illness, unfortunately surrounded by many misleading myths, the girls had so many good questions, some of which caught me quite off guard. It was a wonderful experience that also provided quite an insight into the lives of these kids, as well. Some of their responses shocked me at times, and made me think twice about the 'innocence' of girls at that age. They know way more than I did back then! Knowledge is power though, and they will be better for it.
One of the statements which caught me off guard came after I asked the girls if Canada still had an issue with people contracting HIV through blood donation. One bright girl in the group brought up the point that she thought it was so unfair that homosexual men in Canada are not allowed to donate blood. I didn't know the answer at the time, but thought to myself, 'surely in our country this would not happen.' I told her that I didn't know but that I would be surprised if that was true. Well, I was doing some research this morning, and found that this insightful 14 year-old was absolutely right! Don't believe it? Apparently this is happening in countries throughout the world. Check out what the Canadian Blood Services website has to say. Some of these concerns are valid, but underlying all this is the infringement of a basic human right.
People are speaking out against it and writing about the issue worldwide. Check out some of the following websites: