Behavioral Change, Achievable?
For many people a change of behaviour may mean a mere shift from an extreme practice to a
lesser one. For some this could be like a preference from quite chaotic nocturnal clubs to
modest ones although both maybe capable of driving into the sweet sliding torrent on the
road to the scaffold. Until this very moment and the death toll from AIDS exceeding 400,000
people seem to have lacked the tact so that the epidemic is no fool to be chased and won by
rhetorical phrases like 'breaking the silence' and a change of behaviour. A change of behaviour
is beyond all these. It is a radical transformation of the old self into a new one. It holds a
bitter truth that seeks a rejection to what we had been accustomed to, as a representative
of Ethiopian Orthodox Church put it at a recent panel. discussion on AIDS.
People from all walks of life gathered at the E TV studio last week just to attempt to break
the silence or to further break the silence? Walta Information Centre, the National AIDS
council, Ethiopian TV Radio Enterprise took the pain to bring together authorities in the field
stakeholders and people they felt represent the various segments of the community.
Most of those active in the discussion came along with own strong views, that reflects their
fear, concern and pity, different in their approaches but similar in their ultimate objective to
arrest the spread of the pandemic. There was such a cry of a little satisfaction on the part
of the National AIDS Council that claimed to have made noticeable battle against the spread
although not that significant since its establishment two years back. However there were
also people who were not actually convinced with the efforts so far exerted by those
concerned and preferred to refer them rather as pathetic attempt. Social marketing and
condom use were some of the signs to measure the level of awareness among the community,
as suggested from the National AIDS council. The council of course believes the effort to stop
the spread and lay the building blocks for the long desired behavioural change is still a long
journey. Why is a change of behaviour remained unachievable phenomena? Most participants
wondered? Some however regarded this as an illusion. It was like saying how can you expect
a butter without preparing the milk first? According to one of the participants the environment
is rather frustrating than helping the efforts to control the spread of the disease. More than
any other time, today, people prefer melting into feasting mania and a lot merrymaking. The
expansion of , Hoteliers, bars, brothels, street prostitution and the invasion of pornographic
displays all lend hands to aggravate the situation and crippling the effort to control the rate
of the spread, he said. According to him there hasn’t yet been made a wiser approach with
professionals support. "Professionals haven't been invited to support the IEC effort. Still
laymen approach and using the traditional way in which HIV positive individuals leading the
counselling activities," he said.
There were also some who sound so critical about what that mean to say “a change of
behaviour. According to a lady participant, it was rather controversial as to what could be the
yardstick to measure the change of behaviour. Are the deaths today indicative of unchanged
behaviour? How did we know the level of change? What are the infection, as well as the
death rates? Are there in-depth studies? She said with qualms about the situation. To this
participant, there haven't been adequate efforts as such to speak of behavioural change.
A woman also said that although it can't be said the government is inactive in the effort it is
paradoxical to notice a “value your life” ads and , a very seductive shows on same TV
screen. The mushrooming of illegal video houses sinning on young citizens and the anti-AIDS
clubs endeavours across the country are the two parallel ironies.
Some again threw severe criticism on some NGOs that are profiting on those orphans due to
AIDS. Government institutions and others too didn't escape the lash. There are those
youngsters who courageously fight the spread and work to support the victims through
established centers. Why the government is reluctant to establish a center to help those
neglected and denied to minimal assistance as citizens? The woman enquired.
The little or no responsibilities of those engaged in the liquor industry and smuggling of little
girls in, so the commercial sex work according to some participant highly contribute ‘to the
rise of the infection. Some demand for stern regulations to prevent unlawful sexual
relationships knocking at hotel rooms in most towns. The situation in most schools is
frightening as some gave their testimonies. ‘We are not certain about the well-being of our
children in most high schools,’ participants aired their fear.
The conflict between the spirit and the flesh in man determines his behaviour, according a
participant representing the religions group. This participant of course strongly criticized the
media to take the responsibility for spoiling children and young people. The media in particular
TV and Radio didn't carry out their obligation ...all the programmes need to be revised.
Although I am reserved about condom use, I strictly adhere to faithfulness and to one-to-one
relationship, the representative said. The other participant who also expressed her displeasure
regarding the media activities and the church was quite furious. The media has so far been
depicting AIDS as a monster ready to devour every one creating terror and fear among the
people. The church also associating the infection with a mortal sin has contributed to make
the victims stay behind and brood on their doomsday. We need to come with workable
approaches. A physician, quite knowledgeable on the area, indicated that there was no
evaluation to assess even what has so far been done at national level in relation with the
According to him there are common trends that issues for discussion often comes from top to
bottom. , ‘The agenda should come from among the people. Everybody seems to work alone,"
he said. Service providers and physicians should be open and adopt a friendly approach
according to him.
It is shocking to learn that 55% sexually active student population in an elementary school
where 81 % are aware of AIDS in one of the country's urban setting's towns, a participant
quite anxious about the danger exclaimed “55%” Promoting marriage and striving for a
meaningful change of behavior is the remedial tools we can rely on, intensify the effort, the
Teachers, medical practitioners and other service providers should work together in order to
beat the pandemic and write success story, a representative of MOE noted. For so increasing
problems regarding proper discipline among high school students, stern measures should be
taken, for otherwise it serves as fuel for abundant promiscuous behaviour, he said. In this
regard however the ministry may have something in schedule in moral and other educational
programmes to control the unusually “rebellious” student population in most schools, according
to him. What have the ministries of a health, Education, The AIDS Council and other
pertinent bodies done to arrest the spread, a representative from Walta Information Center
wondered. Where does the change of behaviour begin? A radical stance to break the silence is
something we all lack, according to him. Are most government institutions such as the court,
police and others apply proper punishment on those deliberately spreading the virus as
vengeance or other hidden motives, he enquired. AIDS issue is a common foe that requires
mutual concern, organized war, a systematic approach is keen to dream a success at least to
embark .on a hopeful beginning, he said. According to him AIDS has knocked at every door.
Doctors, journalists, teachers, lawyers and people from all walks of life have fallen prey. It is
no use hiding the truth. It seems no one remains unaffected, rather has a story to tell about
someone, a relation, a family member, a colleague, a friend or some one in the street gripped
by the disease, or accepted the inevitable death. We need robust muscle, determination and
zealous to fight to stop AIDS.
However, the gathering finally reached at a common understanding devising various
approaches to beat the disease, advocated for a real change of behavior of course severely
criticizing the condom ads taking them as good option to arrest the spread. Video houses that
are destroying traditional values and bury time bombs in the heart of the youth in the country
may give multitudes to the grim reaper some day. The role of herbalists arid traditional
healers, also serve as an adhesion to national effort. Both of them in their activity in the
awareness raising campaigns as well as the tireless search to find a cure deserve
appreciation, moral an material support, some stressed.