When T&T Film Nights, an initiative of the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) and the Trinidad & Tobago film Company (TTFC), rolled into Sangre Grande on May 5th, sex, pregnancy and HIV was indeed a hot topic. The local films screened were Positive & Pregnant, directed by Stacy Lela; SHHushed, directed by Mandisa Pantin; Pashan of the Froot, directed by Nadissa Haynes; and Dirty Clothes, directed by Dawn Pirtheesingh. Of the four, one of them, Positive and Pregnant, focused on the dilemma faced by a pregnant young woman when she discovers that she is also HIV-positive. With her world crashing down around her, she exhausts her possible options, with the damage caused by her own errors overshadowing whatever hopes she foresaw for her child.
The fact is, many young people are still having sex without proper sex education and knowledge and many are still in school. According to the Minister of Health, Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, about 2,000 pregnancies occur in girls under 19 years of age each year. In fact, according to the most recent figures, one in every nine babies is born to a mother who is 19 years old or younger (source: Central Statistical Office, 2006). This includes babies born to 13, 14 and 15 year olds. The situation is compounded by the fact that almost one-fourth of sexually active young people ages 15 to 24 have had sex with more than one partner, and less than one fifth reported consistent condom use. In Trinidad and Tobago, the number of women between 15 and 19 infected by HIV is five times higher than among adolescent males. Minister of State in the Ministry of the People and Social Development, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, has commented that teen pregnancies pose a challenge for any nation, as there were increased risk factors for girls including delays in their personal development, more pressure on the health resources of the nation and increased cost factors in combating HIV and Aids. According to Gregory Sloane-Seale, Programme Coordinator of the Citizen Security Programme at the Ministry of National Security, and a partner in the Sangre Grande screening, “We are short-changing our young people by believing that they are too young and naive to know about sex and sexuality or that by discussing these issues it will encourage promiscuity. Education is power and where people are empowered they tend to make better decisions.”
Melvina Hazard, Community Development Director at the ttff commented, “Film is a powerful tool for education and social transformation and we are continuously seeking opportunities to use the power of cinema to transform young lives.” The ttff is held annually in September and is presented by Flow, given leading sponsorship by RBC Royal Bank and bpTT, and supported by the TTFC, the National Gas Company, the Tourism Development Company, the Tobago House of Assembly and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.