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Fellows' Activities at a Glance

Munya has successfully conducted needs assessment meetings with CAB members, clinic staff and researchers. “My biggest achievement was being able to develop a media and communications training tool that Community Advisory Boards and trial site staff can use,” Munya said. This fills a big gap and it shows the impact this project is already having on the prevention research landscape in this community.  In addition to this, he delivered a talk about microbicides to about 40 female students from seven tertiary institutions around Harare during a sexual and reproductive health workshop.
Munya enjoyed what he called the real “fruits of media engagement” in May. The 2010 International Microbicides Conference (M2010) which he attended, and to which he recommended three Zimbabwean journalists provided an opportunity for the reporters to proactively report on microbicides and other new HIV prevention options. First was a pre-conference analysis that The Herald did on April 28, followed by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) News on May 16, Voice of America (VOA) on May 18 and then The Standard on May 23.

“As I write, I am speaking to a producer on one of the radio stations about doing a women’s health program which will highlight issues to do with women’s vulnerability, HIV and a host of others,” said Munya. How exciting!

Other highlights
Conference Pre-view
– The Herald, April 28, 2010; Voice of America, 19 May 2010, ZBC, 5 & 11 May 2010, The Standard, 22 May 2010
Conference Coverage – The Herald, 26 May 2010, Voice of America, 25 May 2010, ZBC, 26 May 2010
Conference Review – The Standard, 6 June 2010, The Herald, 2 June 2010
Personal blog - http://science-ne-media.blogspot.com/

“I couldn’t be happier with my work around the female condoms,” said South African Fellow, Nono Eland. She said that advocacy work on female condoms was one of her major achievements. Nono and other colleagues at the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have worked hard to advocate for the incorporation of female condoms in the South African HIV counseling and testing campaign. They not only achieved this, but also ensured that more female condoms were ordered for the Soccer World Cup in June. Nono also co-authored and conducted a successful stakeholder meeting.

At the M2010 in Pittsburgh, Nono moved all the conference delegates through her well-thought and exceptionally delivered plenary address titled “Taking it to the streets”. Nono related the fight against HIV/AIDS to soccer – whereby there are different players on the field, each with a clear responsibility. She emphasized the need for a strong attack on the epidemic noting that even in soccer, the best defense is offense.

Richard presented preliminary results from his Fellowship project at an oral presentation – “Preparing communities for results of HIV prevention trials: the case of communities participating in MDP 301 in Masaka, Uganda” at M2010 in Pittsburgh.

It was an exceptional opportunity for Richard to highlight the work that he is doing, and an indication of the field’s appreciation of the importance of the work being undertaken in the Fellowship. Congratulations to Richard. His presentation went well with the trial’s international Principal Investigator, Sheena McCormack asking to meet Richard to follow up, and requesting him to share his final results when his project ends.

“I look forward to many more opportunities for me and other Fellows to highlight our work,” Richard said.

Other highlights

Cynthia took her advocacy to rural women whom she wants to empower to be microbicides advocates too. She has engaged various stakeholders, including ministry of health representatives, traditional leaders and councilors in wards (districts) where the project will be implemented. She has developed several IEC materials including poster and t-shirts for community based advocates. Cynthia is currently working on a documentary, “Voices of Rural Women” and has identified resource persons to work with her on its production. We hope to see snippets soon.

Patrick Mwai Muchai, like Cynthia, also went to grassroots women. He documented women’s voices during a “Women’s Day” event he coordinated. The women told him that there is minimal male involvement in HIV prevention activities and that they would like to see more men prioritize HIV prevention. The women suggested that couples’ sex seminars could help strengthen male involvement in HIV prevention. The women said that “we also have our mpango wa kando”* (clandestine lovers)...” let us bring them on board as well.”

In May, Patrick miraculously made it to M2010, after acquiring his U.S. visa just two hours before his flight! What an advocate he is!

And in June, he made a presentation about the Fellowship and his M2010 experience at a KANCO quarterly networking meeting. This meeting brings together KANCO’s regional members – about 80 civil society groups, Ministry of Health, government departments and private sector organizations. This forum was aimed at sharing success stories and challenges in HIV prevention at the community level.

The media are a moving target and can be challenging to bring together. Jauhara’s project aims to develop a media training guide. She successfully organized and facilitated her first media stakeholder meeting – a needs assessment which was held in Kampala. “Having 15 out of 18 journalists attend, and remain engaged as they were throughout the day was more than I could ask for at my first meeting,” said Jauhara. Her other milestone was meeting 14 key informants, including HIV prevention researchers to whom she introduced her project. She has now developed her first draft of the guide and is receiving feedback from various stakeholders.

Alliance has conducted civil society and consultative meetings with different stakeholders in Rwanda.  These have helped to facilitate the development of a common understanding on several issues concerning male circumcision for HIV prevention (MC), including availability of affordable services, understanding partial protection, misconceptions and myths to be addressed during the rollout.

“This dialogue helped to identify advocacy needs and priority actions for Rwanda,” Alliance said. Participants have identified the need to have more of these discussions to be able to have an impact in their communities. 

At one of the civil society consultations, she was amazed at how much community groups can contribute to ongoing MC national rollout, and at how more and more women are becoming aware of the importance of involving them in MC rollout.

In May, Alliance attended M2010. She says, “I became knowledgeable of what is currently going on in the field of microbicides research thus increasing my awareness on the advocacy needed to be done but also giving me the passion for this field.” 

During the conference, she earned herself an invitation from WHO’s Dr. Kim Dickson to participate in the country update meeting on scale-up of male circumcision programs in the southern and eastern Africa region held in Arusha, Tanzania in early June.

“This meeting gave me more proof for how important this advocacy fellowship is in countries where new biomedical prevention interventions are being implemented,” concluded Alliance.

Gift has been the centre of activism in Malawi as he and his host organization, the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), have been directly involved with the recent case regarding a gay couple that was arrested. Gift and CEDEP worked tirelessly on getting legal representation and justice for them and advocating with national and international gatekeepers to influence the decision of case. Through this storm, his office was broken into twice which added further challenge in doing his Fellowship work.

“Working on MSM issues in Malawi and Africa needs commitment and being strong. Expect the risks of arrests, media homophobia, politicians and religious negative statements... The only entry point to the issues is to take health perspective as a rights issue...,” said Gift. 

However, he was able to conduct a thorough literature review on male circumcision for HIV prevention and what it means for men who have sex with men (MSM). This helped him to develop a fact sheet on male circumcision and a question guide for focus group discussions with MSM. He has since analyzed the results from these discussions and is developing a report.

In June, Gift was invited to Washington D.C. by the U.S. State Department for discussions on the rights of minority groups in Africa. He and three other African minority rights advocates were applauded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the courageous work they are doing, and she pledged her support and that of the U.S. government towards this work.

Other highlights

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Pride Month 2010 speech (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/06/143517.htm)

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