Knowledge without taboos: a join-in circuit to combat HIV
Trialled in schools, rolled out nationwide: an interactive educational programme is teaching 30,000 young people in Zambia to protect themselves better against AIDS.
Zambia has been successfully combating the spread of HIV for years. It was one of the first countries in Africa to achieve the UN’s 90-90-90 target. This means that at least 90 per cent of those infected with HIV are aware of their infection, at least 90 per cent are receiving medication, and at least 90 per cent of those receiving treatment also receive therapy. The success was due in part to an interactive join-in circuit (JIC), co-developed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Studies: Knowledge works in AIDS prevention
The concept, an entertaining and interactive educational circuit that covers topics such as contraception and HIV transmission, teaches young people how to protect themselves from infections. Irene Ntoka is one of over 20,000 young people to have completed the course at school. Today, the 25-year-old educates other youngsters in Zambia on ways to protect themselves from the viral disease. ‘The most effective remedies against AIDS are knowledge, self-confidence and access to services,’ she says. And this knowledge is bearing fruit: two studies have shown that young people are more likely to take an HIV test after completing the JIC, more often to use condoms and are therefore better protected against infection.
Nevertheless, the proportion of young people among new infections is still higher than average at 40 per cent. Girls and young women are disproportionally affected, accounting for seven out of 10 new infections in young people. GIZ is supporting the Zambian Government in efforts to integrate the join-in circuit into the health system, in order to reach out to more young people nationwide. Local authorities, health workers and young people have all been trained in mainstreaming HIV prevention in their towns and villages across all sectors – including with the help of the join-in circuit. A further 10,000 young people have already completed the JIC in health centres and community facilities.
Using dialogue to tackle taboos
In all sectors of society, taboos and shame prevent young people – girls and young women, in particular – from accessing comprehensive information on sexuality and health. For this reason, GIZ invited more than 200 traditional leaders, church representatives, health experts, politicians and young people to come together for a series of dialogue events, with the aim of strengthening the right of young women and girls to protect themselves against HIV and unwanted pregnancy.