Centre for Communication Impact

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Knowledge is Power: Community Members Learn How to Live in Harmony with HIV

Community Media Trust's Outreach team regularly holds open day awareness events in communities to provide access to essential health information and clinic services, emphasizing HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT).For two days prior to the event, the team conducts door-to-door visits in the local neighbourhood to provide health education, distribute information pamphlets and condoms, and advertise the upcoming open day event. Many families demonstrate great interest in the health information and services available at the event, which they often find difficult to access due to lack of resources or transportation.

During the month of May, CMT's Mthatha and Kokstad teams coordinated five Open Days in the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo health districts in the Eastern Cape, reaching a total of 3027 local residents. The events were held in public spaces like schools and community centers in Tyalarha, Slovo Park, Mt. Ayliff, Bizana, and Bonxa. The Open Days were large collaborative efforts with participation from local chiefs and community leaders, governmental municipalities and local departments of health, local NGOs and NPOs, and community health workers (CHWs).

At the events, the local leaders spoke about the pressing issues facing their communities, while guest speakers from the NGOs and NPOs provided basic knowledge on HIV and prevention strategies. The speeches were delivered in isiXhosa and isiZulu, ensuring all information was easy to understand.

Many of the topics discussed at the events are based on the primary challenges faced by the communities that were voiced by the local CHWs and community leaders in the planning of each event. Topics covered included HIV testing, treatment for HIV, TB testing and treatment, HIV prevention strategies including prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), maternal and child health, rape and access to post exposure prophylaxis, and tackling issues such as stigma and encouraging people to disclose their status and to live positively.

Doing health education during a door-to-door visit before the Bizana Open Day on 23 May.

Addressing the attendees, including a group of school children, at the Tyalarha Open Day on 5 May.

Addressing the attendees, including a group of school children, at the Tyalarha Open Day on 5 May.

A member of Siyayinqoba Beat It! handing out pamphlets to those attending the Mt. Ayliff open day on 16 May 2013

TB/HIV Care Association partners with CMT to provide testing services at all events.

Participants who answer questions correctly receive Siyayinqoba Beat It! branded handouts at each event.

A group of women performing before a crowd at the Bizana Open Day on 23 May 2013.

Male and female condoms were distributed at the events, together with printed information in isiXhosa, providing take-home information on HIV, ARVs, PMTCT, TB and STIs.

A variety of clinical services were available at the events, including HCT and TB screening as well as blood pressure and blood sugar testing and family planning education. CMT partners with TB/ HIV Care Association and the local Department of Health (DOH) to provide these services. At a few of the events, the DOH provided measles and polio vaccines as a part of the NDoH's immunisation campaign running during the months of May and June.

The events have received extensive positive feedback from the local residents, who deeply appreciated the opportunities to learn more - especially about HIV and its treatment, condom use, and TB. Many people were also grateful for the access to ID and social grant applications and the assistance to complete the forms, provided by representatives from the Departments of Social Development and Home Affairs.

Event organisers emphasized that the education provided on these key issues is important to the communities because they don't have easy access to quality health information while community members noted the varied aspects of the events and requested that longer events be held in more locations, such as their own villages, in the future.