My blog written for ACODEV. A version is also posted on their website…
In June 2013, ACODEV held community dialogues regarding the challenges of improving access, delivery, and utilization of HIV/AIDS services in Kasese District. These meetings resulted in identification of emerging issues and creation of work plans by various community representatives. This past Friday, 1 November, we returned back to the same community members to review their progress, discuss lessons learned, and strategize for the future. These activities fall within ACODEV’s Integrated Approach to HIV Prevention Project which supports pieces of the Ministry of Health’s 2011-2015 National HIV Prevention Strategy by addressing social and cultural norms that influence risky behavior. The project works in partnership with the Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organizations and is funded by the Uganda AIDS Commission-Civil Society Fund.
Returning attendees represented both community leaders and at-risk populations including boda boda drivers, commercial sex workers, religious leaders, and health workers. The day kicked off with reflection and reporting achievements from the past several months including several participants sharing their experiences to the group. Muhindo, a health worker in Bwera, organized several community sensitization events to teach about condom use targeting 150 boys and 10 couples, in total. She cited challenges such as dissatisfaction of female condoms but was delighted to report that she helped several married couples grasp the need for using protection in any extramarital relationships.
Another contributor was the Chairman of the Boda Boda Association, Ismael, who successfully distributed 1,600 female condoms and 5,200 male condoms throughout his community network. Additionally, he formed nine groups of 35 boda drivers each to discuss and educate about condom use. Similarly, he also experiences challenges in the uptake of female condoms related to the general lack of exposure and associated apprehensions but still felt that he made an impact with his peers.
Dr. Danny Devito Gotto, ACODEV’s Reproductive and Child Health Program Manager, then led a brief review of concepts including most-at-populations; risky cultural and behavioral habits; and the importance of knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions regarding HIV/AIDS. This prompted a large group discussion that focused on general perceptions and concerns; it allowed the participants to openly disclose the challenges they observe in a safe and respectful environment. Per request of the group, Dr. Gotto completed an impromptu demonstration of how to use a female condom to refresh the participants’ knowledge and familiarity with them to empower the group to do the same in their communities.
The afternoon concluded with small group sessions and presentations to refresh previously drafted work plans. Each group outlined several new or continuing issues, specific actions needed, and an accountable person or group. It was an inspiring workshop demonstrating the true commitment of leaders representing all facets of Kasese District. Both ACODEV and the participants left the day with a rejuvenated focus on improving HIV/AIDS services throughout the region.