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Let communities lead the HIV/Aids battle

Summer School 2024

Let communities lead the HIV/Aids battle

As a continuation of the theme of World Aids Day in 2023 – “Let communities lead” – the focus of this year’s summer school was on the role of effective community engagement in the fight against HIV/Aids.

Taking the lead were our two keynote speakers, who are both stalwarts in the HIV/Aids arena:

  • Anne Githuku-Shongwe (regional director of UNAIDS East and Southern Africa) spoke about the role of UNAIDS in leading the fight against HIV/Aids and working with communities, as well as the opportunities and challenges for communities to collaborate with UNAIDS and other role players.
  • Canon Gideon Byamugisha (cofounder of ANERELA+ and patron of INERELA+, networks of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV), highlighted the key focus areas of faith-based organisations (FBOs) in contributing to the Global Aids Strategy 2021-2026 and the Interfaith Health Platform (IHP) targets.

Dr Guy Lamboly Kumboneki (HIV/Aids programme officer at the SADC Secretariat) zoomed in on the role of communities in Southern Africa, with a focus on the SADC programme of action, partnerships and response to HIV/Aids.

The theme was continued later in the week with talks by two representatives from Coalition PLUS, an international coalition of community-based NGOs committed to fighting Aids.

  • Serge Douomong Yotta (advocacy director) shared community-led perspectives and experiences, including how such initiatives can drive an Aids-free future by reaching more people than the traditional healthcare system.
  • Soufia Bahm (technical support manager for advocacy) shed light on the theory and practicalities of community mobilisation.

Dr Adriaan Liebenberg (neurosurgeon and director of Health Collective) looked at community involvement from a patient point of view. Based on a personal experience, he shared his insights on a fundamental healthcare flaw, namely that patient outcomes are rarely measured and even when measured, little is done to improve the end product. The result is that patients stop being fellow humans.

With the youth being the ones who have the biggest stake in the future, the role of youth communities in the fight against HIV/Aids also received special attention, with three youth leaders talking about youth leadership, agency and perspective:

  • Zanele Cekiso – healthivist, registered nurse and quality assurance coordinator at SEAD Consulting
  • Teboho Mohloai – regional programme officer at SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) and secretary general of the African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN)
  • Nyasha Phanisa Sithole – programme officer (youth leadership and engagement) at MenEngage Global Alliance and cofounder of the Development Agenda for Girls and Women in the Africa Network

For a recap of any of these sessions, log on to SunLearn where you’ll find the recordings. The sessions were also emailed to students who at that point were not yet registered.