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Community Groups Welcome C-Change’s Interactive HIV Prevention Toolkit

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lesotho volunteers open their community conversation toolkitsJuly 2011—Over 200 community volunteers from five districts of Lesotho eagerly opened brightly colored boxes and explored the innovative materials inside, to prepare for their orientation on C-Change’s Community Conversation Toolkit for HIV Prevention.

They had been looking forward to getting new materials on HIV prevention, and they found that and more.  Inside each box was a carefully researched set of highly interactive materials designed to stimulate dialogue among adults age 20 and older, centered on simple steps to mobilize communities around prevention. The six materials make use of art work that suits their context and are in local languages—in this case, Lesotho Sesotho.

Lekhooa Ntholeng, 33, summed up his reaction to the toolkit: “It is unique, stylish, and has got a different and very interactive approach that I believe is going to impress our group members as well as other members of my community.”

His group was among a wide spectrum of community-based organizations at the orientations that are engaged in the response to HIV—football clubs, associations engaged in agriculture and business development, and groups providing home-based care and support for orphans and vulnerable children. Their volunteer representatives lead community dialogues, within their own groups and in the wider community, that often focus on key drivers of the epidemic, such as cross-generational sex, multiple concurrent partnerships (MCP), gender-based violence, and alcohol abuse.

What’s in the toolkit?

Volunteers use finger puppets as they create dialogues around HIV prevention The toolkit contains story-telling finger puppets, community mobilization cards, role-play cards, dialogue badges, playing cards, and “throw boxes.” With the finger puppets, the volunteers created dynamic and engaging stories—for example, between a sugar daddy, his wife, and a young girl; then between the man, a traditional healer, and a nurse who tells him he is HIV-positive. As they gently tossed back and forth the throw boxes—one printed on all sides with proverbs and another with questions about provocative behavioral issues—the volunteers engaged in animated discussions and debates about the sayings and questions that landed on top—for example, the relevance to HIV prevention of the saying “There’s no fool like an old fool” or how to answer the question, “What would you do if you saw a man beating his wife?”

Volunteers use the playing cards in the toolkitParticipants used role-play cards and their visuals—on alcohol and sex, intergenerational sex, sexual networks, and condom use—as they invented mini-dramas and opened up conversations on motivations, rights, risks, and responsibilities relating to the behaviors or social norms depicted. They also played games with cards emblazoned with faces relevant to the epidemic (instead of kings, queens, and jacks) and, on numbered cards, key questions about HIV. The volunteers may be able to expand their outreach activities by bringing these cards to bars and other locales where conversations around HIV prevention may be difficult to initiate.

Mathabo Ketso, 30, saw herself making good use of the toolkit to address behaviors that she said “many members of my community still practice.” She added: “The toolkit will enable me to approach them in a good way and discuss with them the dangers of alcohol abuse, MCP, violence, etc., and then together come up with solutions to avoid these risky behaviors.”

Sustained dialogues on HIV prevention

Since 2008, C-Change has been supporting community groups in Lesotho to promote dialogue around HIV prevention. The Community Conversation Toolkit for HIV Prevention (available in English and southern African languages, including Chichewa, Kikoande, Ndebele, and Silozi) forms part of the project’s exit strategy. All groups and communities, no matter with whom they are working and how activities are funded, can continue to use these exciting, interactive materials to continue dialogues around HIV prevention and motivate participants and communities to take action.

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