Wednesday, September 28, 2005
What is an AIDS-competent community like? What does an AIDS-competent community do?
When we introduced the Constellation to local organizations in Chiangmai in July, I introduced the concept of AIDS Competence by explaining how we defined the term/concept, and it was ok. But when we had to introduce the concept of AIDS Competence again in to local NGOs at HDN office on 21 September, I decided to try a different, more participatory approach. So, instead of telling, this time I asked the participants “In your opinion, what is an AIDS-competent community like? What does an AIDS-competent community do?” The lively brainstorming yielded the following responses (emerging entirely from the participants with no other prompting from me apart from an occasional “Anything else?”)
An AIDS-competent community:
- has knowledge about HIV/AIDS
- is aware that HIV/AIDS concerns them and affects them personally
- recognizes their own risks
- has positive attitudes about living with HIV/AIDS
- takes responsibility for not spreading AIDS
- has and uses their their capacities and potentials in their responses to AIDS
- takes action on prevention, care, treatment, support, creation of an enabling environment, etc.
- organizes into groups
- has members who are actively involved in responses
- has and uses local resources (people, folk wisdom, funds, knowledge, venue, etc.) to respond to HIV/AIDS, while they may also uses resources from the outside
- shares experiences
- learns from action
- summarizes their lessons learned
- evaluates themselves and their work
The brainstorming led smoothly to discussion about how we as AIDS activists and facilitators should work with communities to promote their AIDS competence and how we could find out how well we were doing. That, in turns, led smoothly to discussing the concept of self-assessment, the tool, and an actual practice of self-assessment in pairs of participants from the same organization, which was the agenda of the day. Participants remained very enthusiastic throughout the day-long meeting and ended with a firm commitment to take the tool back to their organization and send us the results of their organization’s self-assessment by end of October so that we could discuss the results and do our sharing/learning on 8 November.
So what have I learned from the experience?
I’ve learned that there’s another way to introducing the concept of AIDS competence, and that this participatory approach of getting participants to discuss and define it themselves is actually a better way because it promotes a strong sense of ownership that leads to enthusiasm to learn and to act. After that brainstorming session, one participant, Ajarn Apassaree Chaikuna from the Home and Community Care Project, made a one-line remark that was repeated by others several times during the day: “We have to start with ourselves”.
I think that was a positive start to taking the journey towards AIDS competence for the group, and it should be a good learning experience to accompany them on the journey.
Chiangmai, 28 September 2005