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SAC wins National HIV/AIDS High School Speech Competition

Andre Rolle claims overall title

Andre Rolle successfully argued that the age to access HIV testing and services should be lowered to 16 since it is the age that teenagers can legally give consent to have sex, to win the National HIV/AIDS High School Speech Competition. Under the current law, a teen has to be at least 18 years of age to access HIV testing and services without the consent of a parent or guardian.

The 14-year-old St. Augustine’s College (SAC) 10th-grade student argued that lowering the age to 16 to allow teenagers to access HIV testing and services, since it is the age that teens can legally give consent to have sex, will arm teenagers with the information to make “healthy sexual choices” as he went up against 12 other finalists, who all addressed the topic, “Should the legal age to access HIV testing and services be lowered to the age of 16?”

Andre also offered an alternative to some people who have suggested raising the legal age of consent to 18. He argued against the move. The teen claimed doing so would open up an “underground sexual community” that would go unmonitored.

Andre walked away with the laptop awarded for first place. Together with his schoolmates, fellow 10th-grade students, JaiDon Haley and Duante Butler, Andre secured the first-place trophy for SAC, at the competition that was held on Sunday, November 27 at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Andre said it took him two days to research and prepare his speech. And that as he did his research, he was surprised at the incongruity between the age for consent and the age to access HIV testing and services. He admonishes teenagers who are infected to seek medical attention and to disclose their status to potential partners.

C.I. Gibson Senior High School’s Darvinette Hanna finished second. She received a tablet.

A tie for third place ensued between Tysha Johnson from Windsor Preparatory and SAC’s JaiDon Hailey. They were each awarded $100.

The Bahamas AIDS Foundation held the competition ahead of World AIDS Day which was recognized on December 1, under the theme “Rock the Ribbon”.

JaiDon, a 14-year-old 10th-grade student who comprised the winning squad said during her research, the most surprising fact she learned was the number of 15 to 24-year-olds infected with the virus. She encourages those infected to take their medication and make regular doctor visits to maintain their health. She also encouraged them to not be ashamed of their positive status and to love themselves.

Daunte, 15, the other SAC finalist, said he also supported lowering the age to access HIV testing and services. He said teenagers would be reluctant to ask their parents for consent to access HIV testing and services, but would be more willing to do so on their own. Daunte said he thinks it’s important that teenagers educate themselves about HIV/AIDS to prevent themselves from contracting the disease and to remove the stigma surrounding it. With powerful antiretroviral drugs prolonging lives, Daunte encourages infected teens to take their medicine and pursue their dreams as they can live long, productive lives.

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