Tackling the rise of HIV infections
Over 33 million people worldwide live with HIV, a number which is rising yearly as the virus spreads. Most people who have the disease live in poor and developing countries where education, advice and support may not be widely available.
Since the 1980s and 90s Uganda has been one of these countries. Struggling with an HIV and AIDS epidemic the country was reporting, year upon year, the highest percentage of new HIV infections in eastern Africa. Some work was done to help counteract the problem with prevalence numbers dipping around 2004 but since then infection has steadily been on the rise again. This rise has highlighted the need to take a new approach to awareness raising involving not only the public but also ensuring that health service providers and policy makers can play their part.
Reaching out to all parties
The first step in developing a new approach to HIV communications and knowledge management is to ensure that there is comprehensive knowledge available on the key issues, and that this is readily accessible. In order to do this the DFID/UKAID funded Knowledge Management and Communication Capacity building initiative (KMCC) was set up.
Managed by Delta Partnership (part of the WYG group) with support from an international consortium KMCC works through a three stage process – synthesizing and sharing knowledge around key thematic areas within HIV, using this knowledge to create innovative communications which aid the uptake of information, and finally building capacity of key stakeholders.
KMCC is well known for its dynamic knowledge sharing events and policy influence activities targeting key decision makers in the HIV response in Uganda. Other innovative communications activities include; training of radio broadcasters on HIV reporting, contribution to the first ever Intergenerational Dialogue in Uganda on comprehensive sexuality education and youth friendly services and, roll-out of innovative communications in fishing communities under the slogan “be careful what you catch”.
Taking the campaign on the road
One of the most high profile activities though has been the sponsorship of 17 episodes of Uganda’s popular current affairs TV show, Minibuzz, to drive discussion and debate around key issues. Topics covered by the episodes included eMTCT (elimination of mother to child transmission), fishing communities, transactional sex, myths and misconceptions around HIV transmission and commercial sex workers. The shows included SMS text polling which attracted up to 2,000 votes per show and was followed up by phone surveying to monitor behavioural trends.
‘Speaking about its collaboration with KMCC, Leslie Nielsen, Director of Regional Partnerships of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) said: ‘I would like to express our appreciation for the invaluable support and advice provided to us by KMCC in 2013 - we have learned so much from you and your support in the Minibuzz episodes, the conduct of the fisherfolk meeting and your provision of the CDs with the publications were really invaluable”.
Despite facing a number of political and bureaucratic challenges KMCC has worked within government structures to ensure synergy with other partners. The initiative has used innovative communications techniques to instil information where it is needed most, encouraging a behavioural change from the Ugandan people and helping to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS.