Report on HIV workshop

Here is a report on a workshop held at Fairview Hotel, Lusaka, November 2003 – April 2004.


In many countries, including Zambia, initial responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic seem to have been based upon the assumption that the fundamental problem to be addressed is one of lack of knowledge, and that, in itself, the provision of information will lead to changes in behaviour.  Hence, drawing upon experiences of other health and developmental issues such as population and reproductive health, countries have invested in large-scale “Information, Education and Communication” (IEC) campaigns, sometimes in combination with more focused programmes for specific groups.  In Zambia, mass awareness IEC campaigns have been initiated on HIV/AIDS using drama and theatre shows, radio talk shows, posters, flip charts, printed leaflets, transparencies, and messages inscribed on items of every day use such as combs, mirrors, rulers and now on fertilizer bags.  However, the large scale nature of such activities has resulted in content which tended to be general rather than specific, complex rather than simple and externally determined rather than individually generated.

Not surprisingly, impact evaluation consistently reveals significant achievement in terms of creating changes in awareness, but much less convincing evidence to demonstrate any significant impact upon behaviour.  One broad conclusion from this experience is that while awareness is necessary, it is rarely a sufficient step in the process towards behaviour change.  Another broad conclusion is that risk-associated behaviour such as unprotected sexual intercourse is heavily underlain by deep-rooted factors such as negative cultural norms that have essentially become social behaviours involving individuals/society as a whole.  Thus the focus of HIV/AIDS programmes and efforts need to shift from:-

  1. The level of the society as a whole to that of an individual
  2. Mass targeting to a more careful engendered approach
  3. Mobilising inputs to sustain desirable outcomes

Aim and Objectives:

The workshop aimed at strengthening HIV/AIDS awareness, gender sensitivity and individual/collective action among participants.  Participating groups were tasked to come up with new insights on the following:

  1. Enhancing understanding of basic issues and concerns in the spread and prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as in the support of people living with AIDS and care of vulnerable children
  2. Sharing knowledge on how beliefs, attitudes, values and societal norms influence the spread and growth of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zambia
  3. Identifying strategies that can address the challenge of HIV/AIDS from an individual/societal perspective

You can read the rest of this report here.

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I spent most of my youth in Makeni, growing up at the centre as it emerged from the bush, one building at a time. I now work in the UK as a lecturer in computer science.
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