Partnering with communities to reduce HIV transmission

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well…”

(Proverbs 5:15)

Attending a recent Flying Mission presentation highlighted that this verse isn’t simply referring to H2O!

MCP PresentationIt was yet another clear sunny morning in Gaborone. I was on the road early heading to Molepolole (an hours drive away) to see how Flying Mission (FM) is working to reduce the transmission of HIV in Botswana. Here I would meet FM Care Ministry Life Skills Co-ordinators- Emanuel and Tagwa, as they delivered yet another presentation to local church representatives, enlisting them to be part of this work.

Botswana has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. One of the factors contributing to this is that it’s not uncommon for some people here – whether young, old, single or married; to be involved in multiple concurrent partnerships (MCP’s) – relationship’s with two, or even more, partners at the same time. Those partners may also be having concurrent relationships, and so on, so it can become a very wide network of partners. If one person in that network is HIV positive, you can imagine the potential for HIV to spread.

Through these presentations, FM is seeking to partner with churches inviting them to put forward applicants to train to become Peer Educators. These educators inform community groups such as churches and youth about the risk of MCP’s, encouraging people to make smart choices in relationships and live lives of character based on Christian values. The aim is to reduce the incidence of MCP’s, and as a result, the transmission of HIV.

At this particular presentation, over twenty church representatives – elders, bishops, pastors and youth leaders, attended to discuss the issue and find out how they can be involved. As a result of the presentation, FM wanted churches to put forward a thirty people to train as Peer Educators at an upcoming training workshop. And praise God, thirty applications were received!

Reducing MCP’s is going to require a major shift in social norms, and certainly won’t happen overnight. But once trained, Peer Educators can really influence change in their communities by reaching so many others with our message. Peer Educators can also then go on to train further educators, mobilising them to conduct outreaches in even more communities throughout Botswana.  It is our belief that hundreds, if not thousands, can be reached with the message we have to share.

Stay tuned for more updates about Peer Educator training and the impact they will be making in their communities.

For further information about HIV and MCP’s in Botswana, you can visit the National AIDS Coordinating Agency website www.naca.gov.bw.