29th February 2008 – Mercator Net.
I recently visited Ethiopia to help conduct an HIV and AIDS prevention training program as part of a grant by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The participants were expecting yet another biological crash course in how to minimise the risk of infection. Instead, it centred around themes like true love versus false love, respect and communication. These are all aspects of mutual faithfulness as a strategy to avoiding HIV infection, the "B" of the Ugandan-inspired "ABC" strategy in which A=Abstinence, B=Be Faithful and C=Condoms.
For the men and women attending the training, the "Be Faithful" approach was a revelation and a relief. One woman, a wife and a mother, expressed a sentiment shared by many by saying she was pleased with this approach and the horizons it opened in people’s hearts and minds. But she was also puzzled as to why such basic human themes are not more routinely promoted in the context of HIV prevention, adding: "Why hasn’t anyone explained it like this before?" By the end of the week, another married couple decided to reunite instead of continuing to hold different jobs in different cities.