Southern Africa: Zambia and Swaziland Develop Roadmap to Change Behavior in Response to HIV

Two southern Africa countries with high rates of HIV have developed advocacy roadmaps to ensure campaigns to change behavior are central to their countries' fight against AIDS.

Both Swaziland and Zambia developed Civil Society Charters in late 2013 as part of their proposal for grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. South Africa, Malawi and Namibia are expected to do the same in early 2014 ahead of their planned submissions of concept notes to the Global Fund.

Civil society leaders in Swaziland and Zambia told Aidspan - independent observers of the Global Fund - that activities to change behavior will be critical priorities for HIV concept notes, which is a change from previous grant proposals that emphasized treatment and care over prevention activities.

Success in Zambia

Zambia has used cost-sensitive behavior change activities to great effect in its efforts towards reducing new HIV infections.

"At Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), we have been addressing these key social factors that contribute to high prevalence of HIV," said Felix Mwanza, the Zambia-based organization's director. "We have been doing this by sensitizing communities on the importance of having one partner and using condoms."

Multiple and concurrent partnerships combined with low levels of condom use are driving the prevalence rate in Zambia, currently estimated at 12.7% among adults aged 15-49.

Programs envisioned by the civil society organisations will target schools, places of worship and mining areas and are likely to emphasize condom use.

Community ownership in Swaziland

For civil society organisations in Swaziland, community ownership and sustainability of programming beyond the life of externally funded projects is critical. By targeting the youth, especially girls, it is hoped that behavior change campaigns will be rooted in their communities, allowing for long-term sustainability beyond the life of any external funding.

Campaigns encouraging condom use will be rolled out from April in urban areas, with schools, popular night spots, soccer pitches and bus depots the primary targets.

Some 210,000 people in Swaziland, or 26.5% of adults aged 15 to 49, are infected with HIV.

Working with key populations affected by HIV

AIDS Accountability International senior researcher Dr Gemma Oberth said getting the health needs of key populations on the agenda is still a challenge in Southern Africa.

"It is encouraging to see Swazi civil society prioritizing access to services for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] fairly high on their list," Dr. Oberth said.

"It is also a good sign that Zambian civil society understands key populations to be a cross-cutting issue, prioritizing LGBT individuals as target populations under their priorities for condom promotion as well as treatment, care and support."

This story was first published by Aidspan on 6 February 2014

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