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Government and UNICEF expand community- based counselling to fight HIV/AIDS
Harare – In
an attempt to reduce the psychosocial impact of the AIDS epidemic on Zimbabwe’s
children and communities, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health
and Child Welfare (MOHCW) to train community based HIV/AIDS counsellors
across the country. To date 30,000 counsellors have been trained.
The community based
counsellors advise on an array of issues affecting children and other
community members. Chief among these are HIV/AIDS-related issues, domestic
violence and child abuse. Meanwhile, last week in Kadoma a review was
held of the programme, which included refresher training of trainers,
review of the manual used and review of selection criteria and retention
strategies for volunteers. This will lead to improvement in the quality
of the training and expansion, should funds be available.
and equipping their members with much needed skills is key to much of
UNICEF’s work in Zimbabwe," said the UN Children’s Fund Representative,
Dr Festo Kavishe. "We have been doing this since 2000 and peer counselling
on HIV/AIDS is a monumental step, taking a critical service to the people
and is something we will now seek to further expand."
Optimistic about the
intervention, acting VCT Officer at the MOHCW, Alleta Makotore, said that
this innovative method of counselling provides the missing link between
communities and the formal health structures. "HIV/AIDS has created
a host of challenges for our communities and counselling will try to ease
some of these burdens, by providing a trained ear to those who have been
adversely affected by the epidemic."
Topics covered in
the counsellors’ training include coping with the impact of HIV/AIDS,
including stigma, domestic violence, counselling victims of sexual abuse,
voluntary counselling and testing, and Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission
(PPTCT). The work of the counsellors has resulted in an increase in uptake
of services such as PPTCT and VCT and they also work in collaboration
with the traditional leadership in their communities.
A community based
counsellor in Buhera, Maxwell Jaji says that communities have received
the initiative well. "People usually come to me when they have just
discovered their HIV status, and for most being positive is automatic
death. It is only when you have counselled them that they have a will
to live again. I feel good about playing such a positive role in people’s
To assist the community
based counsellors in carrying out their duties, UNICEF and government
are in the process of revising and updating the manual for the counsellors.
Regular training courses will be held to equip them with new information
to help them to carry out their duties at a community level. One of our
key plans is strengthening the links and referral systems between the
community based counsellors and other services in the community to ensure
holistic and continuous care and support.
"No one denies
the challenges Zimbabwe – and many southern African countries – face with
HIV/AIDS," said UNICEF’s Dr Kavishe. "This whole country needs
to work together to fight HIV. People need to educate each other on safe
sex, to confront all forms of stigmatisation, and as in this programme,
support those already affected by HIV. Only in these ways can HIV/AIDS
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