Thursday, December 18, 2008

ADRA Malawi at pre-Icasa/Icasa Dakar AIDS Conference.

ADRA Malawi from 29th November to 8th December, 2008 attended a PACANet-Pre ICASA and the main ICASA AIDS Conference in Dakar, Senegal, Biennial International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STI) in Africa, a key event on AIDS on the African Continent. It is a gathering of actors involved in the response to HIV/AIDS from African and other continents. Emma Jakobo and Michael Usi represented ADRA Malawi.

The PACANet is an organization of faith based organizations and associations that deal with HIV/AIDS and related issues. The main themes at the PACANet conference were: Treatment, Orphan and Vulnerable Children, Prevention and Theological reflection. The conference reviewed the declarations made in earlier conferences. The conference focused on whether the churches changed or been challenged by HIV/AIDS.

Communication for Social Change is another subject that ADRA Malawi and Inger Olosen from ADRA Denmark partner office shared with participants at the Dakar Conference.
There were about 100 participants at the PACNet- Pre ICASA conference.

The main ICASA conference that attracted about 10,000 participants had many presentations. ADRA Malawi particularly benefited from the launch of a DVD titled Courage and Hope. The DVD showcases the life events evolutions of Kenyan teachers who came out in the open to declare that they are HIV positive. It is a TALE of Heroes IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS. The Film depicts overcoming stigma and discrimination through determination and knowledge of the HIV/AIDS.

Media in Development/ Communication for Social Change as well as best lessons from other organizations are some of the presentations that ADRA Malawi attended. ADRA discussed possible networking relationship with other Communication for Social Change Organizations likeSaul City of South Africa.

There were many other interesting topics that ADRA Malawi attended like the comprehensive approach to the prevention of diarrhoea, malaria and HIV/AIDS Control. The three diseases are approached comprehensively as a package with bed nets and water purifier given as incentives for an HIV test.

It was discussed at length whether the incentives given for the HIV test are not undermining the spirit of volunteering for the test. Some participants felt the incentives were more of a bribe than incentive. The concern was that some people would go for the test just because they want/need to get the incentives not necessarily that they have understood the value and implications of the test. The consequences could therefore be detrimental to the campaign for the promotion of VCT. Another concern was that this practice may discourage some would be VCT clients from going for the test without the incentives that others are getting for the test. However, the managers of the initiative explained that there have not been any negative developments that people expressed.

Overall, the conference was very fruitful and gave an opportunity to learn and share. It was a rewarding experience!!

Author: Micheal Usi

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