They call it the Excellent Life AIDS Awareness Agency, or ELAAA.
In the four months since Cameroon’s Affirmative Action Association, or ACT, launched that project at its new headquarters, the ELAAA center has helped about 150 youths, ages 16 to 24. Altogether, those youths have made nearly 550 visits there, learning about behavioral changes that are needed to avoid HIV / AIDS.
The center also provides legal assistance for gay youths who have been rejected by their families and for those who have been arrested and discharged — most of them lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender or intersex.
To improve the youths’ social skills and to prepare them for entrepreneurship or self-employment, the center also runs an income-generating training program where youths work as apprentices, dye cloth, and produce yogurt and soap.
Those are some of the greatest achievements of ELAAA, President Rostand Vondab Tentchimou said during a July 27 open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the training center and headquarters.
On that day, four peer educators presented a dramatization of HIV in Cameroon, particularly among the country’s most at-risk populations. That and other sessions, such as one on the proper use of male and female condoms, were in line with ACT’s goal — “to educate people in order to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and to stop the growth of HIV among marginalized groups such as homosexuals,” the ACT president said.
About 30 people, including representatives of the High Commissioner of Canada, the U.S. Embassy and local non-profit groups, attended the ribbon-cutting.
In the future, said Serge Douomong Yotta, the secretary general of the organization, the group will work to improve its programs aimed at changing behavior, offer regular free screenings, and seek to expand communication between the general population and LGBTI.
Eric O. LEMBEMBE
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