Swaziland: Fighting HIV and AIDS in Swaziland

Swaziland: Fighting HIV and AIDS in Swaziland

Date: July 9, 2015
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Ezulwini, 9 July: Various participants showcased case studies of gender aware HIV and AIDS intervention strategies during the third Swaziland Gender summit. These included a presentation on Pvenevtion of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) as well as writing seminars for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

Andrew Moyo of Umsimisi narrated how theatre is a catalyst in community dialogues on Prevention of Mother to Child Transition (PMTCT). Moyo explained that the project’s unique selling point was its use of theatre as a foundation of community dialogues held at chiefdoms under selected Tinkhundla centres in Hhohho and Shiselweni regions.

“Theatre has for many decades been used as an effective mobilisation strategy. It clearly depicts the reality of life at home and sparks departs on PMTCT issues, especially amongst men,” he said.

Prior to the implementation of the community dialogues, character research was conducted in the communities which provided insight into the individual community issues upon which the drama was built.

“Customising the plays in the target communities greatly assisted us in addressing specific myths and misconceptions around PMTCT. They were designed in such a way that there was a character created based on one common belief system of the community which opened the doors for debate,” he said.

The dialogues resulting from the drama provided feedback especially about the awareness, understanding, perceptions and knowledge of PMTCT in the target communities. Issues that came out from the dialogues included men’s resistance or reluctance to change; myths and misconceptions about gender issues and lack of understanding of PMTCT, among others.

Specific objectives were developed and executed to address such issues which included preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child; conducting research to ascertain health seeking behaviours within the community; engage and train community leaders to support the programme and train community based health motivators for continued community engagement and monitoring progress.

Since the implementation of the project in 2014, more women have access to anti-natal care services; there is an increase in number of men accessing clinical services. Moreover, community members are taking the initiative to discourage home delivery; community volunteers have been capacitated to provide basic counselling and referral and more men are testing with their partners.

“In most of the communities we used Bucopho or Indvuna which made it easier for the project to be accepted by community members as it was coming from higher authorities. We applied positive masculinity approaches to win men and traditionalists,” he said.

Through the project, 6 000 women and 4 000 men were directly reached and trained, making a total of 10 000 direct beneficiaries. The project’s success is attributed to its partnership with the Gender Consortium under the CANGO umbrella which coordinates gender issues at a broader level. Other key stakeholders included the Ministry of Health, HIV testing services providers, community leaders at chiefdom and constituency levels as well as the police.

Zintombi Khumalo is a young woman who works with other women living with the virus in her community. Her project is basically about knowledge sharing and empowering young women through telling the “I” story.

“We write stories about the experiences of women living with HIV in our communities. These stories are aimed at passing on documented information to other communities so that other may take heart and know that they are not alone in this.”

Zintombi is also penetrating the male dominated film making industry where she produces, directs and coordinates a group of her school colleagues who produce films.

“We haven’t produced much yet. However, we were so empowered last year when the national television recognised our work. During the 16 Days of Activism Against HIV and AIDS, a local television aired a film we were involved in. Although the film was not basically our own, my group was happy that something we were involved in got recognition on such a day,” the director said.

Elaborating on how she manages to keep up with such demanding work, Zintombi was quick to credit her communication abilities.

“I am abundantly blessed with the ability to express myself. When I approach you, I make sure I am very clear about what I am sharing with you. I always try to paint a vivid picture of the topic we are discussing,” said the outspoken filmmaker. Being able to achieve such does not mean the end for Zintombi as she still has big plans about her project and future.
“The media is a male dominated industry, however, my aim is to force myself into that world and make my mark in the film industry. For now, I’m focusing on print as it helps me capture the information we will use to make documentaries from people living with HIV. These documentaries will also help in sharing information and educating other people on the issue of HIV in the country,” she said.

This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news



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