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Men and Traditions Against AIDS

Jemimah Mwakisha, a Ph. D. candidate at State University of New York, Binghamton, describes how an NGO facilitated a three-generational dialogue about transmission of HIV/AIDS and how existing, or changing, traditions can save lives. 

Men and Traditions Against AIDS (MTAA), a NGO in East Wanga, Kenya, initiated community dialogues as a way to explore how village cultural practices might be employed, or altered, to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

MTAA recently facilitated a three-generational dialogue during which sons, fathers and grandfathers discussed the transmission of HIV/AIDS, as well as which of their cultural practices would most likely increase its spread and which would help prevent its spread.

Afterwards, MTAA facilitated community forums in which each generation led discussions about HIV/AIDS within the community.  The forums helped create a community-wide effort to make its traditions safer.

This project demonstrates that men are essential partners in the prevention of HIV/AIDS and that, by sharing information, communities can bring about positive changes, such as no longer engaging in cultural practices that spread disease.

Lessons that emerged from the project include: community youth possessed more facts on HIV/AIDS than did their fathers and grandfathers; more grandfathers have sought out voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) for HIV/AIDS than have their sons and grandchildren; and very few men have visited the VCT as part of a couple.

The community dialogue attracted support and recognition from the senior chief.  He adopted the recommendations resulting from the dialogue, decreeing that, "Residents of this location are directed to prevent the spread of diseases.  On the spread of HIV/AIDS the recommendations of MTAA" are adopted under this order."

AfriAfya, the African Network for Health Knowledge Management and Communication, a consortium of health NGOs, has been supporting MTAA through a grant from the Institute for International Cooperation and Development, a private nonprofit organisation that supports development and community work in Africa, Central America and Brazil.

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