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1.  Evaluation of knowledge levels amongst village AIDS committees after undergoing HIV educational sessions: results from a pilot study in rural Tanzania 
Background
Village AIDS committees (VAC) were formed by the Tanzanian government in 2003 to provide HIV education to their communities. However, their potential has not been realised due to their limited knowledge and misconceptions surrounding HIV, which could be addressed through training of VAC members. In an attempt to increase HIV knowledge levels and address common misconceptions amongst the VACs, an HIV curriculum was delivered to members in rural north western Tanzania.
Methods
An evaluation of HIV knowledge was conducted prior to and post-delivery of HIV training sessions, within members of three VACs in Kisesa ward. Quantitative surveys were used with several open-ended questions to identify local misconceptions and evaluate HIV knowledge levels. Short educational training sessions covering HIV transmission, prevention and treatment were conducted, with each VAC using quizzes, role-plays and participatory learning and action tools. Post-training surveys occurred up to seven days after the final training session.
Results
Before the training, "good" HIV knowledge was higher amongst men than women (p = 0.041), and among those with previous HIV education (p = 0.002). The trade-centre had a faster turn-over of VAC members, and proximity to the trade-centre was associated with a shorter time on the committee.
Training improved HIV knowledge levels with more members achieving a "good" score in the post-training survey compared with the baseline survey (p = < 0.001). The training programme was popular, with 100% of participants requesting further HIV training in the future and 51.7% requesting training at three-monthly intervals.
Conclusions
In this setting, a series of HIV training sessions for VACs demonstrated encouraging results, with increased HIV knowledge levels following short educational sessions. Further work is required to assess the success of VAC members in disseminating this HIV education to their communities, as well as up-scaling this pilot study to other regions in Tanzania with different misconceptions.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-14
PMCID: PMC3262745  PMID: 22165999
2.  "Driving the devil away": qualitative insights into miraculous cures for AIDS in a rural Tanzanian ward 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:427.
Background
The role of religious beliefs in the prevention of HIV and attitudes towards the infected has received considerable attention. However, little research has been conducted on Faith Leaders' (FLs) perceptions of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the developing world. This study investigated FLs' attitudes towards different HIV treatment options (traditional, medical and spiritual) available in a rural Tanzanian ward.
Methods
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 FLs purposively selected to account for all the denominations present in the area. Data was organised into themes using the software package NVIVO-7. The field work guidelines were tailored as new topics emerged and additional codes progressively added to the coding frame.
Results
Traditional healers (THs) and FLs were often reported as antagonists but duality prevailed and many FLs simultaneously believed in traditional healing. Inter-denomination mobility was high and guided by pragmatism.
Praying for the sick was a common practice and over one third of respondents said that prayer could cure HIV. Being HIV-positive was often seen as "a punishment from God" and a consequence of sin. As sinning could result from "the work of Satan", forgiveness was possible, and a "reconciliation with God" deemed as essential for a favourable remission of the disease. Several FLs believed that "evil spirits" inflicted through witchcraft could cause the disease and claimed that they could cast "demons" away.
While prayers could potentially cure HIV "completely", ART use was generally not discouraged because God had "only a part to play". The perceived potential superiority of spiritual options could however lead some users to interrupt treatment.
Conclusions
The roll-out of ART is taking place in a context in which the new drugs are competing with a diversity of existing options. As long as the complementarities of prayers and ART are not clearly and explicitly stated by FLs, spiritual options may be interpreted as a superior alternative and contribute to hampering adherence to ART. In contexts where ambivalent attitudes towards the new drugs prevail, enhancing FLs understanding of ART's strengths and pitfalls is an essential step to engage them as active partners in ART scale-up programs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-427
PMCID: PMC2916904  PMID: 20646300
3.  "Just like fever": a qualitative study on the impact of antiretroviral provision on the normalisation of HIV in rural Tanzania and its implications for prevention 
Background
Once effective therapy for a previously untreatable condition is made available, a normalisation of the disease often occurs. As part of a broader initiative to monitor the implementation of the national antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme, this qualitative study investigated the impact of ART availability on perceptions of HIV in a rural ward of North Tanzania and its implications for prevention.
Methods
A mix of qualitative methods was used including semi-structured interviews with 53 ART clinic clients and service providers. Four group activities were conducted with persons living with HIV. Data were analyzed using the qualitative software package NVIVO-7.
Results
People on ART often reported feeling increasingly comfortable with their status reflecting a certain "normalization" of the disease. This was attributed to seeing other people affected by HIV, regaining physical health, returning to productive activities and receiving emotional support from health service providers. Overcoming internalized feelings of shame facilitated disclosure of HIV status, helped to sustain treatment, and stimulated VCT uptake. However "blaming" stigma - where people living with HIV were considered responsible for acquiring a "moral disease" - persisted in the community and anticipating it was a key barrier to disclosure and VCT uptake. Attributing HIV symptoms to witchcraft seemed an effective mechanism to transfer "blame" from the family unit to an external force but could lead to treatment interruption.
Conclusion
As long as an HIV diagnosis continues to have moral connotations, a de-stigmatisation of HIV paralleling that occurring with diseases like cancer is unlikely to occur. Maximizing synergies between HIV treatment and prevention requires an enabling environment for HIV status disclosure, treatment continuation, and safer sexual behaviours. Local leaders should be informed and sensitised and communities mobilised to address the blame-dimension of HIV stigma.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-22
PMCID: PMC2759900  PMID: 19740437

Results 1-3 (3)