As part of the commemoration of World H.I.V. A.I.D.S. Day, the Ministry of Health partnered with Y.W.C.A. Samoa to hold a National Forum on the theme “My Health, My Right” on Friday.
Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, spoke about the debilitating effects of the disease internationally and locally.
In Samoa, about 24 members of the public have contracted the H.I.V. virus and 13 have passed away.
While this is a small number in comparison to other countries, Tuitama encouraged the forum participants to be vigilant and understand that if the virus ever becomes widespread in Samoa, it would have devastating effects on the population and our economy.
Tuitama then launched three important documents namely: “National H.I.V. A.I.D.S. and S.T.I. Policy 2017 – 2022”, the “H.I.V., A.I.D.S., S.T.I. and T.B. Monitoring and Evaluation Reference Manual” and “Health Guidelines for Tattooing.”
With the increase in customary tattooing of “tatau” and “malu” the Tattooing Guidelines provide important information for tattooists, their assistants and anyone handling tattooing equipment. Infections such as Hepatitis B and C and H.I.V. A.I.D.S. can potentially be spread through tattooing needles and sharp instruments if sanitary precautions and clean instruments are not used.
Young women participants from Falealili, Safata, Vaitele, Apia and one representative from Savaii attended. Aged between 14 and 25 years of age, many are still attending school or have graduated from College and are seeking employment. Y.W.C.A. Samoa is open to all faiths and provides an opportunity for young women to come together and learn about health issues and other subjects that challenge them.
Group activities on Body Image and Self Esteem, Violence against Women, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and H.I.V. A.I.D.S. were held and many questions were asked about each topic. A powerful spoken word titled “Beautiful Samoa” was performed by Tai Samoa and Jessica Andrews, compiled from real life experience of Y.W.C.A. members.
Y.W.C.A. Samoa thanked the Ministry of Health for the sponsorship of the one day forum, which provided an opportunity for young women to learn in a “safe space”. The theme of the spiritual message for the Forum was “Healthy Living is the Will of God”.
Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should strive to be healthy and care for our bodies so that we can have the energy to do God’s work. The young women were challenged to break the stereotypical cycle that once a young woman marries, her personal appearance and health are no longer a priority.
Sailalelei Letoa stated: “I learned a lot about health issues today and enjoyed the energizers and games, but mostly the fellowship with other young women.”
All participants received small gifts kindly sponsored by Farmer Joe Vaitele.