Participants of the workshop
In July 2012 SCR ran a two-day workshop for 30 people on stigma. The event was organised by three members of the Afya HIV Support Group. They achieved a mixed group of participants, made up of 25 people who have not overcome stigma while 5 of them have (to the extent that they are able to share their HIV status without fear with their family members, friends and they can publicly share their status and experiences). Similarly, 22 participants were from support groups and 8 participants have not joined any support group.
The Objective of the workshop was to help people living with HIV virus reduce both internal and external stigma so as to enable them live positively. A large part of the workshop was enabling people to share their stories and experiences to inspire and learn from each other. The experiences were very touching.This sharing changed the perception of many on what they are going through either at home or outside home. This experience of sharing empowered participants in the fight against stigma, denial and discrimination. One woman told of how she had lost three children either in pregnancy or soon after they were born (due to complications associated with AIDS), but after telling her family and accessing the necessary support from the local hospital, she was able to have twins, both of whom are HIV-.
The stories affirmed the suffering caused by not overcoming stigma, the importance of sharing experiences in helping others to deal with stigma, and the recognition that coming out as positive can be a long process which needs careful management.
Participants made the following recommendations:
- Once a person is aware that is living with HIV virus he/she should accept that and be positive that the virus is not going to cause death immediately. They should seek medical help and join a support group.
- People living with the HIV virus should learn to disclose their HIV status to their close relatives and friends so that they can understand them and give them the necessary support whenever possible.
- Anyone living with the virus should try to keep him/herself busy .When idle they think a lot about their HIV positive status and get stressed in the process. They can run small businesses, attend religious meetings, visit and assist those in hospital and bed ridden.
- People living with HIV virus should go public and share their experiences so that those who are HIV positive can be empowered to overcome stigma and those who are HIV negative can accept and support those who are HIV positive.
The training was judged a great success by the participants, who requested more such training events, on different topics.
Training session by Mwania Makau