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Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the MARPs Project is a comprehensive HIV prevention initiative focused on vulnerable and marginalized populations in Ethiopia’s urban centers. The peer group discussions seek to educate vulnerable youth about HIV and about how certain behaviors involving drugs, sex, and violence can increase their risks of infection.

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Ayenalem Bekel, 15

“My friends and I spent a lot of time in bad places like ‘Shisha House’ and ‘Khat Bet,’ where people smoke shisha and chew khat leaves, and where drug use and commercial sex transactions are common. But during the peer group discussions, I learned about how HIV is transmitted and that we were exposing ourselves to a lot of danger. I am peaceful now because I stay away from my former friends and focus on my dream of becoming a dancer.” Read Ayenalem’s story.

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Destaw Mulugeta, 18

“The program helped me become a better person. Because of what I learned, I am protecting myself and hope to become a football player or a pilot one day.”

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Elias Mesfin, 19

“I used to fight and disrespect women, including my own sister. The group discussions helped me to change the way I live and also broaden my horizons on HIV. I hope the discussions will reach as many boys and girls as possible. The more we can reach, the better chances for young people like me to protect themselves.”

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Wassihun Asamenew, 19

“After coming to the peer group discussions, I’ve overcome a lot of struggles in my life. I used to be afraid of getting tested for HIV, but after learning more about it, my fear has disappeared. I volunteered to get tested. Now, I know my status.”

© 2011 EngenderHealth. Photo credit: Staff/EngenderHealth