Did you know that a third of HIV infections in adults are among young women aged 15-24? Did you know that women are almost twice as likely to have HIV as men? These alarming facts underscore the urgent need to address societal and structural barriers, including economic and legal constraints, to access equitable HIV prevention, treatment, and care.
In response, the FutureLife-Now! programme in Malawi, through the Ministry of Education and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, developed an HIV manual tailored for use by school health and nutrition (SHN) teachers and youth facilitators.
Both SHN teachers and youth facilitators play a crucial role in transforming the health landscape by providing HIV-related information, increasing access to ART, encouraging adherence, as well as reducing new HIV infections.
“I am so thrilled about the sustainable impact this training manual will have for adolescents and young people. Even more exciting is the impact that will transcend beyond the FutureLife-Now! programme,” said Maziko Matemvu, health coordinator for FutureLife-Now! in Malawi.
The first training course in the use of this new manual took place from 24 to 28 September 2022. Twenty SHN teachers and nine youth facilitators took part. On the first day of the workshop, the workshop facilitator asked participants what their expectations were. It was clear from the expressions on participants’ faces that they were not completely on board. The responses revealed a common belief that the teachers were already equipped with adequate information about HIV and didn’t understand why they had to undergo this training. However, by the last day of the workshop, their perceptions had made a 180-degree shift and everyone agreed that “no one is too young nor too old to learn”.
“I didn’t think I would find the training beneficial, but I was wrong,” said Bwaila Secondary School teacher, Chance Kamwambi. “I have learned new information and updated my approach in supporting learners living with HIV. I did not realize I had deep-seated biases that were tainting my views and impacting on the information I had on HIV.”
Felistous Soko, FutureLife-Now! youth facilitator for Mbinzi Secondary School, said, “As a youth facilitator, I feel more confident to execute my duties and complement existing interventions, both in school and out of school. This training was awesome!”
Matemvu summed up the initiative stating that although the training has ended, the work has just begun for SHN teachers, youth facilitators and their key partners. “Together they will be contributing to the HIV response as drivers of change and not passive stakeholders.”