HIV/AIDS prevention and nutrition education in Tanzania

Date: 
31 January 2011

Like many countries in Africa, Tanzania is facing a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic which threatens the development of the country. With 1.4 million adults and children infected with HIV (approximately 8% of the population), agriculture, tourism, and the daily life of every citizen has the potential to be affected. In response to this epidemic, volunteers with Global Service Corps (GSC) Tanzania’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education Program wield an effective weapon: education. As a result of a three-year community development project funded by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and in partnership with an international NGO, GSC is not only able to continue to offer training to groups in the town of Arusha, but has also expanded a package of trainings to rural villages. Women's groups, people affected by HIV/AIDS, Maasai and other indigenous cultures are amongst those populations served in the rural areas. HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education trainings are just one aspect of GSC’s work to improve the health of Tanzania’s most vulnerable populations through increased food security and improved nutrition.

Volunteers from all backgrounds are invited to participate in GSC’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education Program in Tanzania. This program requires a two-week minimum commitment, but can be extended to six months or more (see also Integrated Service Learning Programs and the Community Development Program). The HIV/AIDS service-learning program begins with a week-long cultural orientation and technical training followed by participation in HIV/AIDS and nutrition community training workshops. The community trainings not only include information on HIV transmission and prevention, but also cover the treatment of STIs, life skills, stigma and human rights issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, and the importance of healthy living through good nutrition. In order to provide trainees with additional skills to increase their family’s food security, HIV/AIDS trainings include lessons on food preparation and preservation using techniques such as solar food drying and grain storage.

During your first week in Tanzania, you and your fellow volunteers will attend orientation conducted at the GSC office, which includes Swahili lessons, information on safety, culture, and the history of Tanzania, as well as guest lectures on gender issues, home-based care, and living with HIV. At this time, you will also receive technical training to prepare you to educate the local community about HIV/AIDS, health, and nutrition. After completing orientation, you will find yourself prepared with the knowledge and tools needed to help conduct workshops in the community in conjunction with GSC’s team of experts.

Depending on the in-country scheduling logistics and the needs of the community, your program may entail one or more components of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education Program (see descriptions below). During the first week of your orientation, you will be given a more specific overview of your day-to-day schedule.

1) Rural Trainings:
You may find yourself camping in tents at a base camp along with GSC staff and other volunteers in a village outside of Arusha as part of a team delivering a package of GSC interventions. Depending on the program module you have chosen, these interventions may include trainings on community poultry vaccination and other food security innovations, sustainable agriculture, and HIV/AIDS and nutrition. As an HIV/AIDS Prevention Program participant you will be a member of the team, which will include GSC Tanzanian counterpart staff. Together, you will help conduct week-long workshops in HIV prevention and nutrition. Whether you are an experienced camper or a novice, worry not! GSC provides all of the needed equipment including mats, tents, and sleeping bags, although some volunteers prefer to bring their own sleeping bags. You will stay in a secure area, usually in the compound of the village leader, and a local mama will prepare meals for the group. Volunteers also find staying in the village culturally rewarding because they have time to visit with community members and truly experience rural Tanzanian life. Most GSC participants who have stayed in rural areas providing trainings to these populations indicate that this was one of the highlights of their volunteer experience; however, training opportunities closer to town are also available for volunteers if these rural assignments are not of interest. (See below for details about Town Trainings.)

2) Town Trainings:
Although GSC has substantially expanded its programs to the underserved rural areas, we also train community groups in Arusha so you may participate in the Arusha town community trainings as well. New community groups are trained in the full HIV/AIDS & Nutrition curriculum, while groups trained in the past are provided three-day refresher trainings in nutrition. At the conclusion of each town training program, a community member who is living with HIV/AIDS encourages each trainee to be tested. Trainees are encouraged to be tested so that they know their status. Approximately 80% of all trainees participate in the counseling and testing provided at the training.

During your time in town, depending on the needs of the community you may also have the opportunity to assist GSC staff Peer Education Coordinators in bringing health lessons to secondary school students during afterschool health club meetings. This is a follow-up on the GSC annual HIV/AIDS Prevention, Health, and Life Skills Day Camp. (See below for details about GSC’s Youth Program and Day Camp.)

3) Youth Program and Day Camp*:
HIV/AIDS Program volunteer participants arriving at the beginning of June will be involved in the annual GSC HIV/AIDS Prevention, Health, and Life Skills Day Camp conducted at secondary schools in the Arusha region. These two-week long camps are designed to be an interactive way for Tanzanian students to learn about issues surrounding HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, relationships, sexuality, and healthy life skills. Youth Program Coordinator Jenaya Rockman wrote following the 2010 Day Camp: “Following the camp, we put together a newsletter for distribution to the schools. This will be the second issue with a plan to make a third by the end of the year. Two of our GSC volunteers are pictured on the first page; Carrie and Aimee. Many articles and cartoons were submitted by students. We hope the chance to be published will be motivation for students and clubs. If we think the newsletter is worthy endeavor, after third issue we may also put together a youth committee to help produce it; in order to give more opportunities for students to gain leadership experience.” Click here to see the newsletter.

*Note: June is the only month when Day Camp activities operate.
The Day Camp sets the foundation for GSC’s Youth Program follow-up activities throughout the year. If arriving after the June camp, you may have opportunities to participate in these youth activities that support and equip students to start health clubs and share what they’ve learned as peer educators.

Through GSC’s programs, you can help raise communities’ overall knowledge of HIV/AIDS and health-related issues. This knowledge will help reduce stigma, increase testing, and help people live healthier lives! Whether your volunteer work is participating in community trainings, the Day Camp, or other Youth Program activities, you will undoubtedly be changed by your experience and will leave knowing that you have impacted lives and made new friends.

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