Mainstreaming of HIV and AIDS is an important component of FIDA´s projects in India so providing adequate training along with supplementary material on HIV/AIDS is an integral part of our work. In the course of working with communities, we have realized that many trainings conducted by NGOs, though well-intentioned, tend to be complicated. They burden the participants with too many charts and statistics and leave them confused. One of our goals was to develop a training package that would be easy to understand as well as practical, i.e. people could take it with them and use it in their community immediately.
Our HIV/AIDS training is targeted at project managers and people who are actively involved in community work. The aim is to train these selected people using contextualized material (flip-charts which are part of the new teaching package) and train them on how to use this to teach other people. In other words, we focus on creating trainers of trainers (TOTs).
We have developed a three-day module on HIV/AIDS for the TOTs. During the first two days, we concentrate on introducing the issue. To do this, we use visual flip charts with full color pictures on one side for the audience and help text for the trainer on the other side. The pictures are especially designed to fit into the Indian context. On the first day, we deal with HIV prevention and myths and facts surrounding it. We explain what HIV and AIDS mean, symptoms of AIDS, and the difference between the two. We also address the three main modes of HIV transmission: sex, blood and mother (parent) to child and we provide practical tips for HIV prevention in all three areas. An important part of training is clarification of how HIV does not spread as this is often connected with false beliefs (e.g. HIV is spread by mosquitoes, touch etc).
The second day is focused on care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. We cover topics like anti-retroviral treatment, health and nutrition, and positive, balanced living. We also look at children and HIV, as well as other crucial issues like stigma and discrimination.
Besides providing comprehensive information, our goal is to encourage people to talk in their communities about HIV and AIDS because by sharing adequate information they may save many lives. Sharing information within the community also breaks down barriers of fear and prejudice connected with HIV/AIDS.
During the training sessions, we observed great reluctance on the part of the community to say words like condom, sex or even breast-feeding out loud. So we decided to make it easier for them by splitting the group into pairs of the same gender. They can then discuss the issues in a relatively safe environment. This participatory approach has helped them to become more familiar with problematic topics. They are able to speak about things and this helps them remember more. It also prepares them for the second, practical part of training, which is educating the community.
After two days of listening and practicing in pairs, the participants go out and practice what they have learned in their communities. Our goal is to give trainers a chance to present materials by themselves, see what they have learned and provide guidance and direction on what they can do further. This process also allows us to observe how effective the training has been – how much they have absorbed and possible areas of weakness.
Each training is influenced by context and demographical and geographical aspects such as the location of the state, city or village as well as the education levels, age and experience of participants. For example, Mumbai has a high prevalence of HIV positive people and we have been making a lot of effort to develop TOT communities there. This August, we conducted training sessions for workers across FIDA´s slum projects in Bandra and Andheri. Participants liked the material we took for them and were open to studying the topic. The practical part of the training worked especially well because the participants became more comfortable with talking about HIV and AIDS. We visited a slum community in Andheri where the room was bursting with women and more people were standing at the door and on the street. The trainers handled the large numbers and managed to reach out to people individually. It was heartening to see that many of the women knew quite a bit about HIV/AIDS. They had more precise information than some trainers in other areas of India where we did our training. The women told us they had received awareness and training from a hospital. Most of the men were working in the afternoon, which explains why the crowd comprised mostly women. However, it’s important that we reach the men as well because most HIV infections occur through male-to-female transmission so we will need to conduct more sessions at a different time when the men are available.
In each place, we try to assess the particularities of the situation and modify our sessions accordingly.