Preventing AIDS with Information
By Judith Santiago*
February 16, 2009—In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), AIDS education is reaching a more diverse population thanks to an UMCOR program that is being led by Dr. Kasanka Mwana Ngoie, a Global Ministries' Global Health Initiative missionary working in the North Katanga Annual Conference.
Students, soldiers, church goers and local authorities are learning how to prevent HIV/ AIDS through education, HIV/AIDS rapid testing, counseling, informative radio announcements and hands-on educational seminars.
Reaching High-Risk Groups
In June, UMCOR Health, a unit of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) with funding support from the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, launched a HIV/AIDS prevention project in the city of Kamina (DRC) to help reduce high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV/AIDS in this vulnerable region.
The goal of the project was to sensitize high-risk groups or populations in Kamina through face-to-face prevention activities that included education and awareness campaigns. Dr. Kasanka and his team targeted schools, military camps—including DRC's largest military camp of more than 2,000 soldiers—churches, local authorities, and other community leaders and associations. Those not physically reached benefitted from HIV/AIDS prevention information through aired radio broadcasts reaching over 255,000 listeners.
From July through mid-December, 2008, 5,825 people received life sustaining information. The project focused on changing sexual behavior and educating people about the importance of testing and counseling. Single men and women were encouraged to practice abstinence, while couples were encouraged to remain faithful to their mates.
"These existing prevention strategies can be very effective in reducing the risk of HIV exposure," said Dr. Kasanka. "But, there's more work to be done in training others so that each person can inform another."
In February, Dr. Kasanka and his team will further train educators so the prevention program will continue. The training will be held in Kamina, in collaboration with World Vision International, which is providing funding support for the project. At the North Katanga Annual Conference as well as in area hospitals in Kamina, there is a need to create voluntary counseling and service centers. The centers will provide people living with HIV/AIDS care and support and will be more centrally located for those who need HIV/AIDS testing.
How You Can Help
Every minute five people die of HIV/AIDS, a completely preventable disease. It takes just a bit of information to help save a life. United Methodists are encouraged to support the ongoing work toward the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide through education, testing and counseling. Your gifts go to support projects like these in DRC and help spread the message of hope and life. Support this work by giving to United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, UMCOR Advance #982345.
*Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications.