All across the world stigma and discrimination against those who carry the HIV virus is rampant. In many countries cultural practices and social norms hinder people from discussing these issues. To combat the spread of AIDS, and to make people aware of the disease and protective measures, many organizations and activists worldwide are engaged with innovative and localized campaigns and initiatives that use internet and citizen media tools to augment their cause.
Repacted was formed in 2001 by young theater artists from the Nakuru Players Theater Club in Kenya and deals with behavioral changes among Kenyan youths on social issues like reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. The project employs magnet theater, their forum theater initiative, to have a forum to discuss issues that people will not have discussed in their day to day life, not even with family because of taboo and cultural practices. Here is a video depicting their mobilization exercises:
MCCJEX discusses about the practices in Kenyan schools:
(The practice of) sex in school is high that now-a-days its more played than any other games in the field. Youths between 7 to 20 years know it better than any other person.[…] No single girl or boy is found without relationship. Towards this, I think condom should be distributed in schools.
Collins Otieno Sailas also thinks that teaching the use of condom in school will reduce HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
However the solution is not so simple. Stigma and discrimination are among the many challenges the project faces and tries to overcome:
Stigma and discrimination needs a creative approach because it is affecting the fight against HIV from all angles. Giving out condoms in public is still a problem. During the outreaches young people take condoms in secrecy they don’t want to be seen by the community because the community will associate them with sexual intercourse.
Republic of Congo:
Currently 79,000 people (or 3.5 percent of all adults) are living with HIV in Congo, and 6,400 people died of AIDS. AZUR Development organization carried out a project in 2006 in Pointe-Noire, the capital of the Republic of Congo concentrating on the psychological and social supports for 100 people with HIV. According to Juhie Bhatia, Public Health Editor at Rising Voices:
The organization is now taking things a step further, by documenting the stigma and discrimination faced by people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Congo. They are training communication officers and leaders of local HIV and AIDS organizations, members of their AIDS Network Africa initiative, in digital story telling (including video and photography), podcasting, and blogging. Each communication officer will then use this technology to share stories of how HIV/AIDS is affecting the local community where he or she works.
An HIV-positive woman lost her baby during childbirth at a hospital in Pointe-Noire because she was HIV positive and no midwife wanted to touch her. Many of them after treatment with PMTCT [Program for Prevention of Mother to Child] are abandoned… Another HIV-positive pregnant woman was saved by a midwife trainee, although her child died after birth; again in this case the midwife feared infection.
…Rejection, reluctance, and the abandonment of women infected with HIV continues.
This post shares a story of ignorance and discrimination:
At Pointe-Noire, Congo, a HIV-positive married man and father was released from prison when the police became aware of his HIV status. The deep meaning of his story must be analyzed. [..] He was released because the policemen feared that he would infect other prisoners.
The project is also using community radios to combat the stigma and raise awareness of issues related to HIV/AIDS:
We often hear that parents don’t want to spend their money on an HIV-positive person, since the person is regarded as ‘dying’ and therefore there's no need to waste their time. These radio programmes therefore are aimed at educating families about the fact that living with HIV is not a crime and everyone should be loved. Solidarity should be shown for people living with HIV.
Ukraine has an estimated 323,000-425,000 injecting drug users and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in Europe. Pavel Kutsev of the Ukrainian foundation for drug users and HIV positive people, Drop-in-Center, uses blog posts, photos, podcasts, and online video to share his experiences working at a harm reduction facility based in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Pavel advocates for substitution therapy:
Substitution therapy is one of the most effective tools to stop the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and it is legal — this is the message we should deliver to society. If we succeed, we would significantly improve the lives of those living with HIV and drug addictions.