HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO holds a bold awareness campaign in Kitchanga
Kitchanga, 17 June 2017 - HIV/AIDS Section of MONUSCO has made great strides in the fight against HIV in Kitchanga, a remote locality situated some 70 Kilometres from the North Kivu Provincial capital of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The bold awareness activities aimed at encouraging the elements of the Congolese National Armed Forces (FARDC) and Police (PNC) to know their HIV status through Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing (VCCT), is expected to run for ten straight days.
The sensitization campaign that strives to drastically increase HIV testing among members of the national security and defence forces including their dependents, also brought together scores of Kitchanga residents who converged on the market square to listen to the sensitization messages that encouraged them to know their HIV status. The HIV/AIDS Section is also using the occasion to fight against HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
The sensitization team that led the Kitchanga campaign has said that by encouraging people to know their HIV status through VCCT, it would be possible for those who test positive to get treatment, care, and support, as soon as possible. This initiative, according to them, could radically reduce the chance of people living with HIV from contaminating others. The activities did not only urge people to protect themselves and to live a healthy lifestyle, but also to protect others by encouraging HIV prevention in their communities.
The FARDC and PNC elements are viewed as a vulnerable population for HIV infection and transmission, because their assignments often keep them far away from their families for extended periods of time. They were delighted to welcome the HIV sensitization team, and to know that any person tested positive would be able to start medical treatment as soon as possible.
Although many people are still reluctant to do an HIV test because they fear discrimination from the community, the fight against the scourge of HIV needs to be a daily fight until such a day where young and old people can talk about HIV in public without a fear of discrimination.
The campaign sought to ensure that those tested positive can access medical treatment within a supportive and caring environment, because HIV is being spread by people who do not know their HIV status.
Most residents applauded MONUSCO’s initiative to bring the sensitization activities to their locality. They are now aware that the activities are going to help more people to know their HIV status and immediate medical support and care would be initiated for those tested positive.
In Kitchanga like elsewhere in the DRC, those who turned out for the event are beginning to understand that it is important for them to know their HIV status. The major challenge for the HIV/AIDS Section is to continue educating the population and intensify awareness campaigns to encourage more people to know their HIV status, and to tackle the issue of discrimination because people still fear rejection from the community.
At the end of the day, the HIV/AIDS Section appeal to the entire population of Kitchanga to work with them by getting tested and by fighting HIV and AIDS-related discrimination, which is often more devastating than the epidemic itself. After Kitchanga, the HIV/AIDS Section would carry out similar sensitization activities in other localities of the DRC.
Joseph Tabung Banah