As the report states, education and prevention efforts are key. I had the good fortune last week to observe an excellent workshop on HIV-AIDS for at-risk youth. Approximately 40 youth aged 10-16 gathered in a class room in one of the toughest communities near Santa Ana. This program, led by a presenter who connected well with these kids, provided them with accurate, useful information -- how HIV is spread, how to protect yourself, how to use a condom, how to have self-respect in relationships. There wasn't any doubt that these kids left the room knowing the facts -- but giving them the support and the living tools to make good choices is a longer term process.
The workshop was sponsored by Homies Unidos El Salvador. Homies Unidos is the organization founded by ex-gang members working directly with gang members, their families, and their communities to improve their situations and to allow the re-integration of gang members into the community. It's tools are ones of empowerment, to give young people the chance to recognize opportunities outside of the gangs and their allure. I'll have more to say about Homies Unidos in a future post.