Chiruza couldn’t keep from asking questions. A young student representing his school in the HIV/AIDS training that day in Mumosho, Congo, he stood up often, clarifying facts, challenging the status quo, making sure he had all the info to return to his classmates fully armed with an education on how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.
He was one of the many kids in the training session that day, children and teens who dream of graduating school to become lawyers, politicians, or, like Chiruza, an engineer in industrial electricity. After learning the statistics, that in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.1 million [1.0 million – 1.3 million] people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013, and that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost 70% of the global total of new HIV infections, Chiruza and his new friends in the meeting were angry. Armed with information, they were ready to engage in a battle against the disease, so they and their classmates, their sisters and brothers, could achieve their dreams.
“The proliferation of armed groups, successive wars, and poverty at community levels in connection with the movement of military groups and young people, especially to and from mining sites, along with the lack of mass education on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are some of the root causes of why HIV /AIDS is a serious threat that kills people every day, with the potential to spread rampantly through communities without this education,” Amani tells us.
How can we serve our mission, Amani asks, to invest in the women, children, and communities of Congo, if they are dying from a disease we can prevent through education? All Together Against HIV/AIDS is a community-based anti-HIV/AIDS campaign by ABFEC (formerly ABFEK), Action Kivu’s partner in Congo. The program consists of diversified activities centered in the community, with a focus on settings with large populations such as schools, churches, and community-based organizations in eastern DRC. Sub Saharan Africa represents almost 70% of the total new HIV infections in the world, according to UN AIDS.
Action Kivu sends a small stipend to help pay Nurse Jeanine for her work, who headed up the training along with with nurses Safi and Toto, women who volunteered their time and experience of over 10 years of work in local hospitals, with specific education in HIV/AIDS. They came concerned for a community that was unaware of a disease that continues to decimate their country and continent.
“Out of 37 million people estimated to be living with HIV, 19 million do not know their status. In other words, one out of every two people living with HIV does not know that they are HIV-positive – and therefore does not access treatment and care.” (The Global Fund)
Brigitte and Chanceline – ready to educate their peers.
Both Brigitte and Chanceline live at the Mumosho Women’s Center, part of the Teen Mother’s Program that is supported by a grant from Jewish World Watch. Strong young women, they both survived rape, and, left alone to raise the babies resulting from that assault, found a new home and new hope through the community of women at the Center, as well as the opportunity to finish school. Brigitte became a mother before she was 14. Joining our family four years ago, and now back in school, she has one more year of Secondary school, and wants to become a lawyer, to defend and protect the rights of the oppressed, especially women and children. After attending this training, she is also now a strong voice in her school in this campaign against HIV/AIDS.
The participants for the first training were selected by the school principals based on their leadership qualities and ability to pass along what they learned to their classmates. Five secondary schools in the area were represented by two students for each class, as well as two local churches. The school principals unanimously agreed to integrate this program in their weekly school activities, in which the students from the training course will be given space and time to share what they have learned with their peers at school, sessions that will be overseen by Nurse Jeanine.
All Together Against HIV/AIDS is based on BCC methods – Behavior Change & Communication. Jeanine started the day with a questionnaire to learn what the community already knows about HIV/AIDS, including the definition of key terms like HIV/AIDS, PVV (a person living with HIV) and their rights, PTME (mother-to-child HIV transmission protection), ARV (treatment with the use of antiretrovirals), how HIV is transmitted, what the protection methods are. After the training session, Jeanine proctored a follow-up test, to determine that her students were set to return to their schools and churches, to educate others and spread the facts. The most popular community radio station arrived to air the event in support of the initiative: All Together Against HIV/AIDS.
“People who don’t know their status, or who are not able to access treatment and care, are at risk of developing AIDS or of passing the virus on to others – at a huge cost to themselves and to society.
“… Today, with access to lifesaving treatment, an HIV-positive person can expect to have the same lifespan as someone who is HIV-negative.
“One of the cornerstones of this lifesaving treatment is the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs). ARVs are given as a combination of drugs that can reduce the amount of HIV in the body or prevent HIV in people at substantial risk of acquiring the virus. However, ARVs are not a cure for HIV; a person living with HIV who is on treatment will need to take ARVs the rest of their life. ARVs also have another benefit: treatment reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will pass the virus on to someone else by 97 percent.” (The Global Fund)
Learn the facts from the UN AIDS fact sheet below, and support our work to combat HIV/AIDS in Congo. Action Kivu pays a small stipend to Nurse Jeanine for her work in our community, from family planning to this HIV/AIDS awareness building. If you’d like to support her life-saving work, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here, and mark in PayPal’s note to seller: NURSE.
– Between 2005 and 2013 the number of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 39%.
Treatment coverage is 37% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
– 67% of men and 57% of women were not receiving ART in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Three out of four people on ART live in sub Saharan Africa.
– There were 210,000 [180,000 – 250,000] new HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Since 2009, there has been a 43% decline in new HIV infections among children in the 21 priority countries of the Global Plan in Africa.
-67% of men and 57% of women had no access to Antiretroviral care in 2013.
As nurses Jeanine and Safi and Toto began the training, one graded the pre-test. 96% of the participants had no knowledge on the topics covered that day: general knowledge of HIV/AIDS, global and DRC HIV-related statistics, modes of transmission, prevention, care, living with and accepting people with HIV (PVV), the clinical symptoms, briefings on different techniques used for voluntary testing, and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention.
When the students took a similar test after the training session ended, 92% answered all the above, and new questions, correctly. They were very interested and kept the nurses as long as they could with more questions, before leaving with training materials to ensure they will have resources to use for passing on the education to their peers at school.
As a trusted source of education and training in the community, our partner organization ABFEC plays a key role in this education process. Almost all the women who attended the anti-HIV campaign stated that it is not always easy to convince their husbands to undertake a voluntary HIV test. Through your partnership with Action Kivu, you provide the means for ABFEC to be a bridge between the community and local health facilities with capacities to provide antiretroviral medication, in addition to providing expanding education on HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmissible Diseases one day every week, as well as individual and group counseling before voluntary testing.
For those who test positive, the program will provide an orientation, practical ways to avoid transmitting the disease, and be put in immediate contact with one of the two hospitals are able to provide antiretroviral medication in the area: The Nyantende and the Panzi Hospitals, both located at about 15 km from Mumosho.
Nurse Jeanine is committed to tirelessly spread the word, to stop of the spread of this preventable disease. Will you join us? We currently send a stipend of $100 / month for Jeanine’s critical work, and want to pay her $150 more, as well to hire an assistant for her, to help address the community needs, prepare the training sessions, and begin to provide female and male condoms. Email us at email@example.com with any questions, or note NURSE in your PayPal donation.
Thank you for partnering with the people of Congo in this way!
Amani writes: The photo with everyone with two fingers up means we are all ready to go go go go!!!!