From June 1-5, AID FOR AIDS International (AFAI) organized the second HIV prevention tour of the year in Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of her role as AID FOR AIDS International ambassador of HIV prevention, reigning Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete accompanied our team to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Like our recent whirlwind tour of Panama, the latest trip was packed with activities and highlighted by personal interactions with enthusiastic young people. During the five-day stay, AFAI and Miss Universe met with student groups, public officials and healthcare providers, spreading the message of HIV awareness and prevention.
The itinerary included a conference of 150 elementary and secondary students from different school districts and representatives of COPRESIDA, the country’s National AIDS Program. Miss Navarrete talked about her experience training under AFAI’s program “Cuanto Sabes de Vih y Sida” (How Much Do you Know About HIV and AIDS) and encouraged the older students to participate in this training. She also noted that when it comes to educating oneself about HIV and AIDS, there are no wrong questions. The only mistake is not asking them.
Following the conference, the students were treated to a performance by the Dominican Republic’s National Ballet Company. Also participating in the conference was Jatna Tavares, the host of the popular TV show “Con Jatna,” who recorded the event as part of a live transmission of her show.
On June 3, Miss Navarrete joined representatives of AID FOR AIDS Republica Dominicana (AFARD) on a tour of the HIV unit of the Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital. It is the largest government-run hospital that incorporates dedicated treatment units sponsored by private corporations (focusing on cleft lips, heart disease and cerebral palsy, for example). During the tour, staff from AFARD and Miss Universe handed out lunch packets and toys to the children and met with Dr. Bautista Rojas, the Minister of Public Health and director of the hospital.
Later that day, the team visited the Children and Youth Public Library for a reception organized by the First Lady of the Dominican Republic. Student leaders from her office’s program, Jovenes Lideres por el Progreso y la Paz (Leader Youth for Progress and Peace), joined the reception. AFARD and the First Lady’s office have agreed to conduct a joint training for youth to become leaders on HIV prevention.
AFARD also met with the director of DIGECITSS, the country’s center for disease control, and signed the renewal agreement of collaboration between both entities. The agreement re-affirms their commitment to work together in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic.
Miss Navarrete’s tour with our team concluded with a gala fashion show that wrapped up the Caribbean Fashion week festivities. She graced the runway for fashion designer Carlos Campos, who has designed a special t-shirt for AFAI.
“We were on the go all the time,” noted AFAI founder and executive director Jesus Aguais. “But the results and the response from the people we met were incredible. The trip opened many doors for us to continue our work against the HIV epidemic in Dominican Republic, as there is still a lot that needs to be done in this country.”