Outreach session at Batumi State Maritime Academy (Georgia)

On November 2, 2012 the Cross Border Cooperation for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Impact Mitigation in Southern Caucasus and Russian Federation project team in Georgia organized an outreach session with the senior students of Batumi State Maritime Academy (Batumi, Adjara Region, Georgia). Including the students in project trainings on HIV/AIDS mainstream and its linkages with migration was a creative approach of selecting beneficiaries by the project team; the sailors in particular were not identified as direct target group during project design phase, but on the other hand the vast majority of the students of Maritime Academy are going to migrate (or have already migrated) to various destination countries on a regular basis.
Before the training session the Director of project Local Partner Real People Real Vision had an informal interview with the Maritime Academy point person, who assisted the team in mobilization of students and dealing with the necessary logistics. During the interview was revealed that most of the Academy graduates get employed at international cargo ships and participate in multiple voyages every year. «The sailors get engaged in various risky practices abroad» noted the interviewee — «some of returnees complained of health problems and infections acquired in the destination countries».
The training course included the provision of basic information on HIV/AIDS and migration to the participants. The training was delivered by the Director of RPRV in rather informal format and friendly, open atmosphere. Absolute majority of the attendants were the males aged 17-20, and 8 out of 20 reported on having recently migrated. One of the interesting observations made during the training was that apparently the participants felt comfortable and open to discuss the issues such as safe sex, risky behavior and other HIV/AIDS aspects with the male facilitator (Director of RPRV); at the end of the information session they freely expressed their opinions and concerns and stated their desire to receive additional capacity building on the covered subject.
The students identified the linkages of HIV/AIDS risks with migration easily — as one of the participants put it: «When one leaves the home country he acts the way he wants, tries new things and commits risky behavior, because no one is watching and also there are certain things which are acceptable in foreign environment and tabooed in Georgia».
The project team decided to plan further outreach sessions at Batumi State Maritime Academy, responding to the needs of the students who are considered as potential/actual migrants and therefore qualify as the direct beneficiaries of the project.
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