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AHEAD’s Teen Action Program Turns Out Teen Leaders

Tanzanian youth are too familiar with HIV/AIDS. About 5 percent of Tanzanian youth ages 15 to 49 are HIV positive. In order to combat the disease, AHEAD launched the Teenage Action Program or TAP.

TAP helps Tanzanian youth cope with life in a changing society by providing life skills and vocational training.

TAP offers instruction in electrical installation, carpentry, computer science and horticulture. After just a year of coursework, more than 95 percent of TAP participants pass national certification exams for their career.

However, HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy are major obstacles to young people’s success. Through poetry, music and drama, TAP teens show their peers how to avoid behaviors that can derail their futures.

TAP also uses workforce development to change attitudes about people infected with HIV/AIDS. Although 1.6 million Tanzanians are infected with the virus, the condition is still stigmatized. The Tanzanian government survey found that 93 percent of females ages15-49 would care for a family member with HIV/AIDS. However, 60 percent would conceal the person’s true condition. Almost 85 percent of women agreed, an infected schoolteacher should remain employed if she appeared healthy. But only 63 percent of female respondents would buy vegetables from an infected vendor.

TAP challenges those prejudices by training participants to provide home-based care to chronically ill patients. As they learn how people transition from active lives to death, the young people develop empathy and compassion. They also learn an important lesson to share with their friends and family: HIV/AIDS is non-compromising, but it is preventable.

But condoms and safe behaviors aren’t the only protections against HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy. TAP organizers believe education is the best contraceptive for adolescent girls.

Early on, girls learn they are subservient to their brothers and fathers. The message comes through songs they hear as children. Education is a privilege that males enjoy. Girls are steered into early marriage and pregnancy. Boys are taught to be assertive and competitive, girls are taught to be passive and accommodating. As a result, girls have very limited socio-politico-economic power.

When girls are educated, however, they postpone marriage to further their ambitions. They eat better and take better care of themselves. When they do marry, they take better care of their families.

Help AHEAD Expand Opportunities for Tanzanian Youth.

AHEAD is a 501(c)3 organization. Your tax-deductible contribution goes to TAP and other AHEAD projects. AHEAD spends only six percent of funding on administration and fundraising.

*Source for national statistics: 2011-12 HIV/AIDS and Malaria Indicator Survey, Tanzania Commission for AIDS, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)