The overall goal has been to scale up activities to increase access to HIV testing in rural DRC. These activities are being implemented as part of HIV awareness programme that includes sensitization, messaging, and testing.
In the Masisi territory in the North Kivu Province, the HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO has reached scores of people with awareness and prevention messages, advocating for the rights of people living with HIV. This is being carried out with the aim of addressing stigma and discrimination that surround HIV and AIDS.
Through the awareness campaigns, sensitization activities have been taken to the enclave regions where most people still live in total ignorance of HIV and AIDS. While the sensitization messages are being delivered through several channels of communication in urban areas, there are several people still living with HIV across rural DRC and are not aware of their HIV status. The intensification of these activities has been creating a wide range of benefits not only for people living with HIV but for the entire community as well.
According to the sensitization messages, the epidemic that is affecting disproportionately key populations at higher risk of infection including women and girls needs to be tackled at an early stage. This explains why the awareness campaign dwells more on prevention.
One of the major barriers of sensitization is high levels of stigma and discrimination that makes it difficult to reach the most at-risk with prevention services and life-saving treatment.
However, MONUSCO has been leading in the fight against stigma and discrimination. Late last year, a join campaign called Know Your Rights, was launched by UNAIDS and MONUSCO in the North Kivu Provincial capital of Goma, to sensitize people on issues surrounding HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
The HIV/AIDS Section has been working in close collaboration with the Congolese National AIDS Control Commission (PNMLS) to prevent further infections, increase access to health, and save lives. For sustainable prevention activities, community HIV Peer Educators are being trained in association with local NGOs to further provide access to testing and counselling.
This initiative that has expanded access to the hardest-to-reach communities is encouraging people to find out their HIV status through testing in order to prevent further infections within their communities.
By Joseph Tabung Banah