ICASA 2008: Courage and Hope, African teachers living positively
03 December 2008
An estimated 122,000 teachers in sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV have been given voice in a collaborative project by UNAIDS Cosponsor the World Bank and African Ministries of Education networks of HIV/AIDS focal points. The result is a book and a documentary film produced by Partnership for Child Development with support by the World Bank.
On the opening day of ICASA the African premiere screening and launch of the documentary “Courage and Hope” took place in Dakar. Don Bundy, World Bank Lead Specialist on School Health HIV/AIDS & Education introduced the film and its background.
After hearing at an education summit in 2006 how teachers living with HIV in Gabon were returning to their classrooms thanks to HIV treatment and playing new leadership roles in fighting the disease, Bundy encouraged the World Bank and the Partnership for Child Health to finance Courage and Hope.
“This kind of support for teachers helps both maintain the trained workforce and provides young people with credible adult role models,” says Bundy.
Elizabeth Lule, Manager of ActAfrica described how children have a chance to live a life free from HIV if they can acquire knowledge, skills, and values that will help protect them as they grow up. “Providing young people, especially girls, with the ‘social vaccine’ of education offers them a real chance at a productive life, free of HIV,” she said.
In the book twelve teachers from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania mainland, Zanzibar and Zambia vividly recount their experiences that testify to ordinary yet courageous life with HIV and the impact their HIV status has on their loves, families, schools and communities.
The vast majority of teachers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are unaware of their positive status, and many are reluctant to undergo HIV testing for fear of consequences of a positive test outcome.
In the film four of the teachers—Beldina Atieno, Martin Mkug Ptoch, Jemimah Nindo, and Margaret Wambete—detail the challenges they faced once their positive status became public. These range from stigmatization to shunning and discrimination against them and their families.
“HIV does not kill. What kills is the stigma and discrimination associated with the virus,” says Beldina Atieno, a 38 year-old teacher from Kenya who learned the hard way how to cope with discrimination after being thrown out of the house by her husband and losing her children as well as her job.
Despite the personal hurdles the teachers faced, they are confident that accessing effective care, support and anti retroviral medicines, they are able to live, and to enjoy full and healthy lives. The personal reflections of these teachers offer courage and hope to the other estimated 121,996 teachers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
The film “Courage and Hope: African Teachers Living Positively with HIV” was first shown at the International AIDS Conference 2008 in Mexico and broadcast from the UNAIDS booth, where free copies of the DVD were also distributed.
At the Dakar launch, Martin Ptoch, who is a teacher living with HIV featured in the film described the positive reactions to the film and book to date. Barbara de Zalduondo, Chief, Programmatic Priorities and Support UNAIDS and Debrework Zewdie, World Bank, Global HIV/AIDS Program also spoke at the launch.