Solomons Businesses Join Save The Children To Fight STDs, Sexual Violence

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Awareness focuses on prevention, protection of minors

By Douglas Marau

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 1, 2012) – Business houses in Auki, Malaita province in partnership with Save the Children has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as they collaborate to curb the increasing HIV status and sexual violence in the country.

The MOU, signed last month, targeted hospitality sectors and male-dominated sectors such as Rarasu Motel, Seasound Lodge, Auki Lodge and the Malaita Provincial Law Enforcement Unit.

Save the Children area manager for Malaita Province Daniel Msonda emphasized the importance of engaging the private sector in HIV and STI prevention activities in the country.

Mr. Msonda said men usually use their economic advantage to entice young girls for sex in exchange for money and gifts.

He said in most instances sex is unprotected, as evidenced by low condom use in Solomon Islands.

"Unprotected sex exposes both men and girls to HIV and STI infections and many girls end up with teenage pregnancies and school drop at an early age," he said.

"Transactional sex also often leads to sexual violence, particularly against young girls.

"It is therefore important to partner with male-dominated industries such as logging companies, fishing companies and construction companies to provide staff with HIV and STI preventive information as well as gender based violence awareness," Mr. Msonda said.

He added that raising awareness to staff of hotels and motels would lead to a more protective environment for young girls through increased vigilance by staff and peer education with customers, as well as availability of condoms to reduce risk of infection.

Under the MOU, Save the Children will train staff from the business houses the basics of HIV and STI prevention, gender and gender-related violence, child rights and child protection.

The organization will also support the supply male and female condoms to the business houses to ensure access to free condoms by both staff and clients.

Save the Children will also provide information, education and communication (IEC) materials on these topics to the business houses.

Managing director of Auki Lodge Elizabeth Anisua applauded Save the Children for the initiative.

"Our staff and clients both need HIV and STI preventive information and services," she said.

"Information related to gender-based violence, including sexual violence, is also vital for protection of girls and women in both the workplace and in the community.

"We are therefore pleased to work together with Save the Children in this initiative."

Meanwhile, the HIV voluntary counseling and testing counselor at Kilu’ufi Hospital Marilyn Iro acknowledged the role played by non-government organizations (NGOs) such as Save the Children in supporting efforts to protect young people in Solomon Islands from HIV/STI infections.

"We acknowledge the collaboration that exists between NGOs and the health sector, which is important for ensuring that HIV, STI and GBV prevention information and services reach as many people as possible in Solomon Islands," Ms. Iro stated.

Save the Children currently has MOUs with seven business houses in Malaita, having previously signed with Geruits Motel, Malaita Motel and Travellers Motel in November 2011.

Similar programs are also being implemented in Honiara and Western Province.

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