BOTSWANA: "Community Mobilisation Tool " launched
© MASA ARV Programme
Poster from the Masa ARV therapy programme
GABORONE, 9 September (PLUSNEWS) - Botswana's antiretroviral (ARV) AIDS therapy programme last week launched a tool designed to teach Batswana about HIV/AIDS and get more communities talking about treating the disease.
The Interactive Community Mobilisation Tool is a flip chart, using the culturally relevant analogies of cattle, a kraal and "superstrong" termites to describe the issues of health, the immune system, HIV and ARV therapy.
"The interactive tool will empower our people with the knowledge they require to make informed lifestyle decisions that could limit their risk of HIV infection or reinfection, and to help them understnd the roles of ARV therapy and the importance of adherence to this therapy," said Tuelo Mphele, an information, education and communication (IEC) specialist at the Ministry of Health.
The flip chart is used to show that, just as kraals protect cattle, the immune system's white blood cells protect the body against opportunistic diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and pneumonia.
Other media tools that will be employed as part of the public awareness campaign include the use of interactive videos, story books and school books.
Botswana, which at 35 percent of adults has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate, introduced ARV medication through the public health system at the beginning of 2002.
But stigma and discrimination have prevented many HIV-positive citizens from enrolling in the national treatment programme.
About 40 trainers based in Serowe, Francistown, Maun and Gaborone are ready to go out into the community and implement the tool in small group discussions, home visits, religious gatherings and kgotla (village meetings).
"The messages are not only treatment-related - we place a strong emphasis on prevention, and every presentation ends with demontrations on how to use both male and female condoms," Mphele said.
Picture-based communication was expected to be effective in communities with a strong oral tradition. "We can successfully communicate complex issues and processes in simple terms, by using imagery that the community can relate to in their day-to-day lives," she added.
Among the lessons learnt from Botswana's ARV programme, named Masa, a setswana word meaning "dawn", is that it is easier to counsel people who already have some knowledge of ARV therapy, and that people will be less likely to burden the health system only after they have become critically ill.
This could result in the earlier testing and detection of HIV positive people, and allow the health care system to treat a larger number of patients, Masa information and education consultant Prathima Naidoo, noted.
"Another advantage of adopting this training approach is that a structured community 'network' has been established, which we will be able to tap into to disseminate other public health messages in the future," Naidoo said.