Why this World AIDS Day (and every day) community voices matter
Sarah Oughton and Tinashe Madamombe
27 November 2023
We know that communities serve as a bridge between individual needs and broader society. That’s why our approach to creating impactful content on HIV centres the voices and needs of the communities most affected
At Be in the KNOW, listening to and amplifying the voices of people affected by HIV is core to our approach. An example of this is our recently launched community voices series, in which you can hear directly from people on the frontline of the HIV response and the communities most affected.
Ending AIDS will only be possible when access to HIV services for marginalised communities improves. Our Community Voices series was co-created with LGBT people, sex workers, people with disabilities and others most affected by HIV. Co-creation embeds these often over-looked community voices in our content to ensure they are heard more widely.
Amplifying community voices
In our videos you’ll meet inspiring activists and get tips and advice on how to make HIV services more friendly for these communities as well as sharing their own experiences.
Brian Sibeko Ngidi, director of LGBT+ organisation Uthingo Network, says: “Sometimes you find healthcare providers who are well meaning, but because they don't have that information or training, they can’t adequately provide services to men who have sex with men.”
This underscores the need to bring the voices of the communities most affected to those providing HIV services. This is the aim of the Community Voices series. If you are a sexual health educator or practitioner, you can get great advice to improve sexual health services for people from the following groups:
- sex workers
- young people
- transgender people
- people who use drugs
- men who have sex with men
Building knowledge, skills and empathy
Stigma and discrimination are issues raised by all the community groups we work with and remain some of the biggest barriers to people accessing HIV services. Providing welcoming services to all people is crucial in ending AIDS. To do this, health workers need to build skills, knowledge, and empathy. Understanding the experiences of the people most in need of HIV services is a vital part of this.
On our Community Voices pages, you can hear from activists like Phumlani Kango, who says: “I went to get PrEP and the replacement nurse started asking me questions about my religious views, my lifestyle and what does my family think of me. I found that very inappropriate. She should have been asking me about when did you last get tested? When did you last have sexual intercourse? Was it anal sex? You know, those kind of questions, so that she's able to provide proper services.”
Lucy Maroncha, a health writer from Kenya, also shares her experiences with HIV services and offers advice on how to improve services for women.
She says: “We need to start telling women that there is nothing embarrassing about being HIV positive. This is a viral infection. It's a disease, like any other. And anybody can be sick. So there's nothing embarrassing about it. And you don't have to fear going to [health] services.”
Supporting communities to end AIDS
Communities serve as a bridge between individual needs and broader societal structures. Communities are the experts on their own needs. They know best how to respond to HIV in their own specific context. This contextual knowledge is essential for ensuring that HIV prevention and care efforts are successful. By amplifying community voices and empowering communities to take charge, we can create a world where everyone has access to the care and support they need to thrive.
Be in the KNOW is here to help individuals and communities take charge of their sexual health. Because we know that when communities take charge, impactful and sustainable change is possible. So this World AIDS Day, we celebrate the huge impact of communities in responding to HIV and support UNAIDS’ call to let communities lead the charge to end AIDS .
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