Respecting cultural values in community mobilisation
Different groups in the community have different values, norms and beliefs, which require different approaches to address their problems. Community mobilisation brings the community together, and helps to improve community awareness and mobilise community opinion and innovations towards a certain issue like HIV/AIDS. It also invests in the community's capacity to apply its own resources to prevent diseases and promote better health.
Can you give any examples of community mobilisation activities that you may have participated in, or been aware of, for prevention of communicable diseases?
You may have come across Enhance Outreach Strategy (EOS) for child health, Community Conversation (CC) for HIV prevention, house to house counselling to pregnant women for prevention of maternal-to-child transmission of HIV (covered in Study Session 27), and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) for malaria prevention.
In HIV prevention, groups such as those involving the most 'at-risk' populations, local traditional associations and influential others, should be systematically mobilised to encourage HIV testing and counselling, and increase access to treatment services. Similarly, it helps to work with influential leaders and programme managers to improve adherence to treatment (Study Session 23).
A targeted HIV prevention programme is one of the key strategies adopted by the FMOH in Ethiopia, so one of the key activities in HIV community mobilisation is identifying the target groups.
Who are the most 'at-risk' population groups for HIV in Ethiopia?
The most 'at-risk' groups include female sex workers, uniformed forces, long-distance drivers, migrant labourers, and men who have sex with men.
Networking and partnership of all relevant stakeholders is essential, because community mobilisation is a group responsibility and it will be destined to fail if a partner does not take responsibility for their activities. So you need to coordinate and organise the various local and external groups working with you to mobilise the community on HIV control and prevention. When interacting with different influential groups of the community, you need to be politically sensitive, know cultural values, and take into consideration the gender bias that can affect the transmission of the virus. In summary, you should communicate clearly, and be able to facilitate different events together with civil societies and local associations in your community. In all your activities, you must respect cultural values that could affect HIV prevention and control.