In the fight against HIV and AIDS, finding effective ways to create awareness through education and information that could motivate people to know their HIV status through Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing (VCCT) is an on-going challenge. However, the HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO has been focusing attention on Peer Education as one of the ways to engage more people in HIV prevention. This innovative programme has been experiencing a boom in popularity as activities are being established in community based groups and within the military barracks.
It was within this framework that for five straight days MONUSCO held a participatory peer education training workshop for military personnel in Beni, a North Kivu provincial town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The organizers from the HIV/AIDS Section who led the workshop have said that the aim of the training was to strengthen the skills set of the participants and to provide them with a basic knowledge on the current situation on HIV and AIDS in the DRC, as well as interactive methods on how to improve their sensitization and counselling skills - and how they can engage with their colleagues during similar activities to create HIV awareness.
According to the training programme, the workshop was one of the major parts of capacity development programme of the HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO to improve the quality of sensitization activities and counselling services and to strengthen the awareness of the HIV and AIDS preventative measures. The document shows that the role of the Peer Educator is to ensure that the military personnel of MONUSCO as well as other staffs are given proper HIV education and information. The workshop also focused on the different aspects of peer education and counselling prior to HIV testing and post testing for individuals as a first step to HIV prevention methods. In HIV prevention, it should be noted that testing is crucial to providing access to early treatment and care for people living with HIV and to protect those who are HIV negative.
The facilitator used video projections as well as group discussions to better illustrate some workplace issues relating to HIV. Participants were also drilled on gender issues and the Conduct and Discipline Team of MONUSCO was invited to offer lectures on the United Nations Code of conduct relating to sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse. To facilitate easy learning, information sharing, and better sensitization, participants were also requested to translate the training materials into their mother tongue for easy understanding. They were also allowed to reflect on how their activities can produce positive effects on their audiences and convey messages to their colleagues. They were then encouraged to reflect on the impact of issues such as HIV and gender-based violence in their own lives and asked to share their knowledge and experience relating to HIV with the rest of their colleagues after the training.
It is important to note here that many reports have shown that in order to offer HIV-related education, counselling, and support in the workplace, peer educators are in many respects at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic. And for the HIV and AIDS programme to be effective, the HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO has established a strong peer education programme.
The goal of this programme is to educate fellow colleagues about HIV and AIDS, reduce stigma and discrimination related to HIV, spread awareness of Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing (VCCT) services within the Mission Area and well beyond. MONUSCO HIV Peer Educators also receive training on basic skills on how to construct and implement outreach sensitization activities and workshop presentations in an effort to help humanity to flourish in an AIDS-free environment.
By Joseph Tabung Banah with field reports