HIV AND CULTURE: The challenges associated with HIV&AIDS have proven to be especially difficult because they differ from culture to culture. The ways in which the pandemic is regarded as well as the ways in which responses are conceived and implemented are intimately linked to factors such as traditional practices, gender issues and beliefs.
The conception in developed countries is different from what we experience in developing countries and it also varies among the developing countries.
Given the wide range of dynamics which culture may include, designing culturally appropriate programs for HIV&AIDS education can be extremely challenging.
HIV IN RURAL COMMUNITIES: AIDS epidemic constitute family and community crisis as well as state and national, that impacts on economic and social development. It is very clear that people living with the virus live within the rural communities and homes and therefore if the fight to prevent infection and support treatment and care were not embraced by the rural communities then efforts in that direction will not attain major success.
There is the struggle to mobilize communities to take ownership of the efforts to provide and support treatment, care and support for the infected persons and also for those affected by the virus.
RURAL COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Community mobilization and participation therefore becomes a major approach to HIV&AIDS prevention, care and control.
This involves bringing together all necessary stakeholders with a view to sensitizing/educating them so that they too can be informed and equipped with relevant information that can lead to prevention, care and support.
The resultant effect would be reduction in Stigma and Discrimination; which are the twin chief drivers of HIV&AIDS virus.
RURAL COMMUNITY APPROACH: Advocacy to Stakeholders: Traditional rulers, Community leaders/ Town union executives, Church leaders, community health care providers, Women, Men and Youth leaders etc. Once these people are convinced, they will in turn assist in convincing their people because they have voice among their people. On the other hand, if you fail to convince these stakeholders, they will definitely work against the whole process.
Sensitization or Capacity Building: This involves updating the knowledge base of the community stakeholders especially training of trainers who will in turn assist in training the larger communities.
Community Outreach Education: Sensitization of the larger community with the assistance of the TOTs. At the end, the TOTs will be there to attend to issues that may come up later when the visiting trainers had gone. .
Referral Linkages: This involves giving the community members information on where and how to refer people for services. The referral points may be to health facilities near to the people, community health care providers, and other health care providers like NGOs, FBOs, CBOs and counseling sites. This is done so that people can refer and be referred to & from such facilities.
STAKEHOLDERS COMMITTMENTS: Ownership and leadership of the AIDS response at family, community and local government level.
Equity of services and resource provision to those in greatest need based on evidence and uphold human rights.
Fight all forms of stigma and discrimination through addressing cultural and social prejudices.
Provide voluntary information to feed into the state M&E framework to track, monitor and evaluate the AIDS response.
Active involvement of people living with HIV&AIDS in planning, execution, coordination and monitoring of HIV&AIDS response at the community level.
Work in a result-focused, non-ideological way, respect, inclusiveness and openness, not only within the prevention context of Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms (ABC) approach but also beyond.
BENEFITS OF EFFECTIVE RURAL COMMUNITY EDUCATION: There was a report sometime ago that immunization for polio eradication failed in some parts of Northern Nigeria because the community leader informed his subjects that the polio immunization was a strategy to reduce their population.
It was observed that the stakeholders were not properly advocated with and as such not properly informed about the genuineness and importance of the vaccine.
Whatever success stories that had been recorded in the fight against HIV have a trace to rural community mobilization. On the other hand, most of the failures also experienced could be traced to the simple fact that the community mobilization approach was not properly carried out. Rural community mobilization leads to behavior change while behavior change leads to adherence, attacking the problem from the root, which will in turn yield optimal results.