On the road to reducing HIV stigma – by taxi!
This is a guest post from Eric Mbotiji, a youth activist from Cameroon. He contacted us and asked to share his experience of an inventive project to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV by instigating open dialogue in his hometown of Bamenda. We were inspired and hope you will be too. This is his story.
It all started when I met an American Peace Corps Volunteer, Kelly Bojan, in my home town of Bamenda. We had a discussion about youth reproductive health issues and HIV/AIDS in our city. In the course of our discussion, I shared my observation of how people who don’t know each other get into township taxis and start talking about any interesting topic. A few days later she proposed an idea: Why not produce stickers containing basic information on HIV/AIDS and placing them in taxis. After our discussions the American Peace Corps office and an organization called Health Development Consultancy Services granted us the financial resources to produce the stickers so the project could go ahead.
50 taxi drivers were trained as peer educators for two days about HIV prevention after which drivers were given the stickers to paste in their taxis. Kelly and I started travelling around taxis in the city at random to paste more stickers in other taxis as well as some private cars. We made sure the stickers were put in an obvious place and that the design was eye catching. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of one of the stickers to show you.
The stickers contained basic information about HIV/AIDS in very easy and simple language, understandable by all. Different stickers were produced to cover different areas:
- Ways to prevent HIV
- Things to do if you are HIV+
- HIV transmission and contraction
- Why women are more exposed to HIV than men
The objective of this was to spark up dialogue in the taxi about HIV and enable people to talk about it very openly. From the taxi, the discussions would hopefully be continued at home, the basic unit of every society.
I firmly believe that through conversation with friends or people we meet every day we can effectively reduce the stigma some people attach to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Gradually, but consistently the stigma will shrink.
Before the project, I had attended a workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, organized by UNICEF in partnership with MTV Networks and others to create HIV awareness across Africa and to use the media to reduce the spread of HIV.
If you have any questions about this project or Eric’s work, he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be happy to answer your questions.