On August 16th, 23rd and 30th, it was all about Open Days and Openness about HIV/AIDS.

Whenever we need to round up our children for an important or special occasion, one of privileges we have are grateful for is the very good linkage and support we enjoy from the Provincial Administration. Using both our networks and chiefs and assistant chiefs, we easily combat the challenges of terrain and poor transportation to mobilize our audience for us. Our internal systems include our Community Health Workers ( CHWs) who have direct contact with all the families. And such was the case this past month when we conducted open days in three areas including Migwani, Mutwangombe and Mumoni and where we were able to meet with 592 OVC for three full day sessions (August 16th, 23rd and 30th. The objective of the Open Days was to:

? Make them understand the modes of HIV transmission, stages and HIV prevention.
? Enhance understanding of BCC.
? Demonstrate how legal rights and Human rights apply to orphans and vulnerable children in the context of HIV.
? Identify different forms of stigma and how to cope with it.

We do this because a majority of our children are orphaned as a result of AIDS and it is our goal to intercept the spread of HIV and the trauma it brings on our communities and nation at large. Given this, Twana Twitu has programmes which have been developed for continued prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS that cut across communities and the challenges they face.
The beneficiaries in the program encounter many challenges brought about by poverty and HIV/AIDs, which are profound in Mwingi. OVC often encounter problems in negotiating safer sex with parteners, influenced by other peers to risky behavior like involving in drug use, lack of HIV/AIDS knowledge, lack of skills and sense of self- efficacy among others.

Behavior change Communication was explained to them as the process through which individuals are engaged in dialogue to honestly reflect on their behaviours, attitudes, believes and practices with the aim of helping them see how they would benefit from the change in different areas of their lives.

The process of behavior change involves a series of steps of which the OVC were introduced to. The process was explained from step one and in details. They include;

? Being unaware of the problem.
? Being aware of the problem and of the desired behavior change.
? Intends to take action.
? Practices the desired behavior.
? How to maintain the change.

The aim of all this to the OVC was to,
? Increase knowledge.
? Stimulate their community.
? Promote appropriate attitude change.
? Reduce stigma and discrimination
? Improve skills among OVC on how to deal with today’s life

This was a good time do HIV prevention through direct communication with the OVC. The aim of this was to let them understand Facts about HIV and AIDS, the relationship between HIV and STIs’The mode of transmission and stages in HIV progression, Methods of HIV prevention among others. They were fully encouraged to avoid any form of sex remain sex without sex if at all they have to do it, not having sex with multiple partners, when blood is spilled always clean it, to not share sharp instruments and not to share tooth brushes.

The staff took time to explain to them the possible consequences of stigma and discrimination as poor performance in school, neglect at home and school, loss of hope and feeling of worthlessness, prevent one from going to hospital and discouraged openness about the disease. We also discussed different types of stigma and how to avoid each including self and, felt enacted and associated stigma.

Since many OVC are denied their rights and/or abused by the community because of vulnerability, we took this special time to focus on the defilement of girls as a means of educating them on Human rights and how to notice violation of one’s rights.

Overall, the Open Day’s were an eye opener for many in that they learned a lot. On our part, we were both surprised and pleased at the increased level of openness that the OVC showed. We thank our sponsors for teaching and enabling us to use the interactive ways such group work and football, which continue to serve us better each time.

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