The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.
This year, STS-Zambia set a big goal. Their plan was simple- gather a team of nurses and counselors, travel to school and get students to participate in VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing). The execution, however, was much harder. Many people aren’t aware of the attitude across Africa largely taken towards VCT. Stigmas about HIV/AIDS and testing have progressed over the years- comprised mostly of fear of infection and overall misinformation about the disease and its prevention. For the large amount of free testing, treatment and
education there is available, many Zambians are misinformed about both the testing process and the disease itself.
STS-Zambia sought to defy the stigma and re-educate as many students as possible. Then, they took it a step further. Instead of just seeking to educate groups, they actually brought nurses in and offered VCT. Throughout June, STS-Zambia partnered up with clinics and school management and successfully completed the VCT School Visit Program in six schools: Butondo High School, Kantanshi High, Mufulira High, Ipusukilo High School, Pamodzi High and Mufulira College of Education.
Working with The Ministry of Health and The Ministry of Education, STS-Zambia began each program with a stage of pre-counseling and sensitization. At each school, students were divided into small groups in order to discuss the details and benefits of VCT. Counselors spent time with students discussing interventions in HIV and AIDS prevention and care, condom-use and behavior change. Students were then able to volunteer to be tested and the turnout was remarkable. As students watched their peers volunteer, more and more felt comfortable joining in. For the students that tested positively, STS-Zambia will be working to coordinate for counseling care on living with HIV/AIDS in order to complete their current programs.
Terry Simpaka, one of the leaders of STS-Zambia recalled, “Other schools after hearing about this initiative are requesting that we visit them to and do the service in their respective learning institutions.” Following his words and inspired by STS-Zambia, the Kibaha Boys’ Secondary School in Tanzania recently held a similar VCT event. Furthermore, the Kibaha Girls’ Secondary School is setting up a VCT project which will be done at both Tumbi special hospital and Kibaha Girls’Secondary School in coast region of Tanzania later on this year.
*LRPI and STS-Zambia would like to thank everyone who made these events successful: The Ministry of Health- the provision of the testing kits and the nursing staff to help in testing and counseling, alongside our trained counselors was a milestone to us, The Ministry of Education- your permission to carry out this important program in your learning institutions enabled us to fulfill our dream, all the guidance counselors, all school management and specifically Mr.Tembo for the support he rendered throughout the entire process.