Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TOT strategy breaks walls of stigma

No one could imagine that the deep rooted and high walls of stigma can easily fall in Kabwazi village community North of Ntcheu.

History tells that for a long time people had been denying the reality of HIV/AIDS since the epidemic was known in the late 1980s. In the recent past, several non-governmental organizations have implemented projects to boost HIV/AIDS awareness in this community but behaviour change remained a challenge. HIV/AIDS continued to be viewed as a family disease other than community one, thereby marginalizing those associated with it.
Going for voluntarily counseling and testing (VCT) was made secret and the HIV status of a person could be hidden. Even if some body had died of apparent symptoms of AIDS, public information emphasized that the deceased was a victim of witchcraft or died of a mysterious illness leaving people to conclude intrinsically that it was AIDS. But with the coming of the TOT approach to the HIV/AIDS problem in the community where counseling services have been tailored with preservation of rights of vulnerable groups especially those living with HIV/AIDS, the face of the pandemic has changed.
According to Moses Kapolo, one of the TOTs working in Kabwazi community a series of open forums on HIV/AIDS issues facilitated by the trainers have reduced levels of confidentiality as many people can now openly disclose their HIV/AIDS status. He says that the number of people who disclose their HIV status has increased and he use some of them as role models to reach out to other people.

The village head Kabwazi has given out one of his houses as a village counseling centre. Moses Kapolo is happy that he can now attend to more people per day for counseling. He says that those counseled include couples. According to Moses, his village would be safe if the trend continues because every person in the village would be aware of his or her status.

He also hinted that the Counselors have embarked on exchange visits in order to reach out to many people. In a dramatic turn of events, HIV/AIDS in Kabwazi village is viewed as community problem and many people including the village head himself admit that the pandemic need collective solutions to defeat

Author: Judith Chirwa - TOT site coordinator

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