The BI’s monthly Health Day for July was held in Tshezi. The event was slightly less formal as we did not have access to a tent because it was needed for a local funeral. Instead, Khuselo and Sam facilitated discussions outside as people waited to be tested for HIV. The attendees listened and learned as HIV was explained to them in basic terms using lions and elephants as metaphors. The adult elephants (the immune system) protects the baby elephant (the healthy body) from the hungry lions (TB, Flu, Malaria, etc.). HIV comes and kills the adult elephants leaving the baby elephant vulnerable (representing AIDS) to the lions who eventually kill the baby elephant.
It also became obvious just how easy it is to spread HIV without knowing it and how important it is to use condoms and to know your status. The groups were encouraged to engage in open discussion about the use of condoms, about treating people living with HIV/AIDS with respect and not ostracizing them from the community. The informal group discussion was difficult to initiate but once one person starting voicing their opinion, soon others spoke out too.
To entice people to get tested, everyone who tests receives a gift bag and is entered for a chance to win a brand new cell phone. By the end of the day, 82 people had gotten tested.
As we move forward with our health days, we anticipate people becoming more open about discussing HIV as a community. We also look forward to addressing new topics such as nutrition and diabetes in addition to HIV awareness.