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US Ambassador opens C-Change meeting in Lesotho highlighting efforts to prevent HIV

Friday, February 24, 2012

US Ambassador to The Kingdom of Lesotho, Michele Thoren Bond, opened the C-Change dissemination meeting, presenting a cartoon from a local newspaper, which humorously depicted a scene between two Basotho women, one of whom was showing pride with all the boyfriends who paid for her various needs. Ambassador Bond then discussed the social norm of concurrent sexual partnerships in Lesotho, the importance of the community dialogue program, and the need for the people of Lesotho to be more outspoken with peers to change such risk behaviors. 

C-Change hosted the meeting on February 23, 2012 to disseminate the results of an evaluation of the C-Change-led intervention in community dialogues that addressed concurrent sexual partnerships and other major drivers of Lesotho’s HIV and AIDS epidemic.

This community-based intervention, which C Change launched in 2009, focused on promoting open dialogue about concurrency of sexual partners and other drivers of HIV, while educating and mobilizing communities to take up further responses. Titled Relationship: Intimacy Without Risk, the community dialogue program was adapted and facilitated by local partner Phela Health and Development Communications. Phela was already partnered with Soul City on the regional OneLove campaign that addressed concurrency. C-Change also provided funding for OneLove, specifically for a radio talk show, billboards, radio PSAs to supplement Soul City’s multi-media campaign. However, this evaluation focused on the community dialogues.

Dr. Susan J. Rogers of C-Change/FHI 360, and Dr. Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya of SAHARA/Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa, the agency that was contracted to do the study, presented the findings of the qualitative evaluation. Ms. Makojang Mahao, HIV/AIDS Prevention Specialist for USAID PEPFAR in Lesotho, commended the C Change approach to the dialogue project including the formative research for program design, the message brief workshop for the media, facilitator trainings, and adaptation of a toolkit.

Phela staff circulated the Relationship: Intimacy Without Risk curriculum developed as part of the intervention.

The presentation of the evaluation findings included the perspectives of community dialogue participants concerning major issues of their communities; and, most importantly, their perspectives on the effect, or potential effect, of the dialogues on their communities and sexual partnerships.

Quotes from study participants indicated they felt that the community dialogues had an overwhelming positive effect on furthering more open communication on sexual issues, improving HIV/AIDS knowledge, sexual behavior, relationships with partners, health-seeking behavior, acceptance of one’s own HIV status, and bringing about a personal sense of contribution and empowerment in their communities. A few dialogue participants, most often male, were more critical, finding the intervention to be culturally taboo, leading to community and interpersonal conflict, and unacceptable to religious institutions.

Input from the dissemination event’s audience and presenters on recommendations for the ‘way forward’ included obtaining more substantive buy-in and participation in the dialogues by community leaders and involving key institutions such as schools, prisons, businesses and churches. Stronger linkages through mutually supporting channels (i.e., between community dialogues and other campaign channels such as radio talk shows, PSAs and others) were also recommended to broaden and sustain program effects. A stakeholder expressed the need for collaboration across donors and various community dialogue projects to move toward a more standardized, evidence-based dialogue program model that implementers could utilize.

The meeting ended hopeful and forward thinking. Participants concluded that C-Change was on the right path and that dialogue, in combination with campaigns that address MCP, medical male circumcision, condom use and other targeted risk behaviors, have the most potential in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Additionally, Phela has adapted C-Change’s Community Conversation Toolkit for HIV Prevention (in Sesotho) for use in Lesotho.



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