Ana Maria Filgueiras Soares, one of Rio de Janeiro's leading advocates for street children, is now directing her attention toward the development of an AIDS outreach program for them. She is also creating an international network to collect and spread the best methods for educating and motivating children in high risk situations to protect themselves against AIDS.
The New Idea
Battling the problem of street children and AIDS since the late 1980s, Ana has already seen what works and what does not.
In 1987, Ana created her own citizen organization, the Brazilian Center for the Defense of Children and Adolescents, which addresses every facet of the lives of street children, from their daily search for food and shelter to the death squads that hunt them. Many resort to prostitution to survive. For them, AIDS and sexually transmitted disease education is also fundamental to survival. Ana has tested many approaches to conveying this education and found what works. Such simple devices as T shirts and memory games that convey the message of safe sex are effective ways to reach these children. Her project, run out of her Brazilian Center for the Defense of Children and Adolescents, is called Mao Na Mao (Hand in Hand), symbolizing solidarity in the effort to combat AIDS and, more broadly, the problems such children face on the street.
There are other aspects of her campaign. She has spearheaded the "Green Ribbon" program, which asks medical professionals in the community to donate their time and skills to helping street children. On the international level, she is constructing a center that will compile information and strategies from all over the world for educating all children at risk about AIDS and disseminating the most effective AIDS prevention techniques.