Het is een periode nogal stil geweest doordat er weinig financiële ruimte was voor extra trainingen. Dankzij een belangrijke donor zijn we onlangs weer vol enthousiasme van start gegaan.
Het betrof een training met een speciale uitdaging, omdat deze werd gegeven op nadrukkelijk verzoek van de locale autoriteiten. Het gebied ligt net buiten de nu grotendeels reeds bereikte regio. Het ging om echtparen, waarvan de ene partner HIV-positief is en de ander HIV-negatief (discordant couples). Deze echtparen werden al in 2012 tijdens een grote regeringscampagne getest. Er was destijds geen geld bij MTAA om hen gelijktijdig een training aan te bieden; voor MTAA zijn deze twee handelingen – testen en trainen – onlosmakelijk gekoppeld.
Het gevolg was nogal desastreus, zo bleek aan het begin van de cursus: de helft van de echtparen was uit elkaar en vier van de aanwezige mensen bleken inmiddels HIV-positief geworden. Nieuwe huwelijken waren gesloten, waarvan de partners niet op de hoogte waren van elkaars HIV-status, met alle gevolgen van dien.Een enorm verschil met de getallen die we kennen van ons eigen gebied, nl. geen scheidingen en één HIV-omslag na tien jaar. Hiermee werd schrijnend duidelijk hoe belangrijk testen én trainen is.
De cursus kwam moeizaam op gang, maar de deelnemers werden steeds gemotiveerder om hun verhaal te vertellen en enthousiaster om een ander, positiever bestaan op te bouwen. De eerste week waren er slechts tien echtparen; dit aantal liep langzaam op naar de beoogde dertig in de vierde week. Minder mensen betekende minder kosten, zodat voor het begrote bedrag vijf dagen toegevoegd konden worden.
In week drie waren wijzelf aanwezig bij een van de sessies en hoorden van vijf koppels hun verhaal aan, elke keer weer aangrijpend.
Hieronder volgt een selectie van opmerkelijke getuigenissen, overgenomen uit het lange verslag.
1) The facilitator used the slide below to explain why the mosquito can transmit Malaria parasites and not HIV.
The lady in this photo lived in fear of a mosquito believing it could infect her with HIV virus. She kept awake at night whenever she noticed there was a mosquito around, untill the training of MTAA convinced her that scientifically it has been proved mosquitoes do not transmit HIV Infection.
2) Mother to child transmissions of HIV during pregnancy, child birth or during breast feeding
Participants were moved to tears with this session. They felt it would be unfair to pass on the virus to an innocent human being. However the facilitator gave them hope by explaining them how to prevent the transmission.
3) Stigmatism and discrimination
Couples continued sharing their testimonies on how they tested positive for HIV and 90% found it difficult to disclose to the spouse. They continued risking their lives by relating sexually without using the condom.
A person feels he is not accepted by others while discrimination is the act of being kept off from others or being ignored because of your illness or status. They shared situations when they were stigmatized and how they were discriminated. They continued to share how they managed to cope although the number that was still stigmatizing themselves was as high as fifty percent.
4) One woman shared her case where her husband dumped her after harvesting sugarcane and took off with all the money. She felt so bitter and decided to look for other alternatives getting support from well wishers who supported her and she paid back by yielding to their sexual advances. All this she confessed before her husband and other participants that it was due to anger and frustration. She sadly concluded her story by saying: ”This is how I contracted the HIV virus and my husband is HIV negative”.
5) One man who is HIV-negative narrated his story saying that he moved in to inherit a widow (the wife of his deceased brother) not knowing her HIV-status. Later on he learnt that she was HIV-positive. The widow, who has children from the deceased husband, has taken permanent family planning method (tube ligation). She does not allow him to get a wife of his own and children. This has frustrated him to the level where he is not able to function sexually. However we learnt that he is on TB treatment and very weak. The couple is being guided and counseled by a MTAA social worker.
In the picture above the spouse who is HIV positive looks worried as the counseling goes on. He fears the outcome of the results. The counselor prepares them for the consequences.
Below is a couple where the woman got a stroke (CVA, one side paretic) after learning that the husband was on ARV’s (HIV-treatment) and was not using any protection during their sexual relationship. She feels more sick than the husband.
6) Anatomy of the reproductive organs and condom use.
Participants expressed their gratitude as they had never been taken through such a topic and disclosed their concern and fear of using a condom because they believed it could slip off the penis and enter the stomach.
7) The last sessions were attended by officials in agriculture and health.
It is during this session that MTAA facilitators reported to Medical officer of Health that from experience, when people test positive for HIV and they are left to go home, disclosure becomes an issue and may lead to serious problems in the marriage. There were many testimonies in the group relating to lack of disclosure leading to chronic diseases.
The officers encouraged participants and gave them a task of ensuring that they share the information they have acquired from the training with others in the community as a way of working towards a generation free from HIV.