Two years ago, the level of AIDS awareness in Chief Nkana’s Area in the northern region of Zambia was considerably low.
Reporter Kellys Kaunda has returned to the region to find out what has happened since then. To begin his inquiry, Kellys stopped at the offices of the Copperbelt Health Education Project, an ngo which conducts AIDS awareness campaigns in, among other areas, the rural parts of the Copperbelt region.
Program Officer Mutale Bowa says on average 35% of the rural population of the Copperbelt region has received some information on HIV and AIDS.
Mr. Bowa says this information range from how one contracts the deadly virus, its impact on society and how one can avoid contracting it.
However, Mr. Bowa says his organization’s efforts to reach out to much wider areas are frustrated by geographical factors.
He says, “How to reach these rural populations is normally a challenge because most roads are impassable. Especially during the rainy season”.
Mr. Bowa says the project’s efforts suffer further frustration if the tools required to prevent contracting Aids are not readily available. “Most clinics in rural areas do not stock condoms. So you can imagine telling people about the use of condoms when they’re not there. The message becomes invalid,” he says.
In spite of such difficulties, Mr. Bowa says the health project is registering progress.
For instance, he says the community’s response to calls for behavior change and a new attitude to traditional practices that encourage the spread of AIDS gives him a reason to soldier on.
He says, “Positive things are happening. For instance, cultural practices such as sexual cleansing are being re-examined and men are realizing that you are not a man by how many women you have had sex with but by how you resist such temptations and how you look after your family.”
Generally, those that live in rural areas are less informed about aids than their urban counterparts.
But AIDS activists would like the imbalance redressed quickly saying the frequent interaction between the two may complicate efforts aimed at stopping the spreading of the epidemic.