Behavioural Change, Achievable

Behavioral Change, Achievable?

WIC-Jan 23, 2002


   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

   preventive effort.


   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

   man indicated.


   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.