Adama Watt, community development worker, the National Association for the Peoples Well-Being (ANBEP), Yeumbeul, Dakar, Senegal
My name is Adama Watt. I am a community development worker in Yeumbeul, Dakar, with ANBEP, the National Association for the Peoples Well-Being.
ANBEP is an organization deeply involved in the fight against AIDS, here on the edge of the city, in Yeumbeul.
To fight AIDS we have put in place a program of public education and prevention. We gather the people of the neighborhood, we show them films, we do events like the transect walk, and storiesæall kinds of ways of teaching how to prevent the spread of HIV.
HOW DO YOU HELP PREPARE PEOPLE TO FIGHT HIV/AIDS?
We prepare them well about all that there is on AIDS, how it spreads, how to stop it, and how to live with someone who has the virus. We also prepare the young kids with good information about AIDS, especially since they are the youth of the futureto prepare them well so that they have the right information so that they will be able to preserve themselves against this plague.
The most powerful thing we do is the prevention program we put in place with the women, who are the most affected, and also with the youth, who we do not forget because they are the future.
After the age of 13 we have them join groups that are guided where we give them information about AIDS and about their bodies, so these young women can be responsible for themselves.
We do things for kids ages 7 to 8, because we know that AIDS has an impact on everyone, so even those of a very young age need to know what AIDS is, how it spreads, and what do we have to do to protect ourselves.
WHAT ARE CHAIRS WITH MESSAGES?
In our program of prevention we decided to start renting out chairs with messages about AIDS. There are various messages on the chairs, about spreading the virus, preventing AIDS, and behavior. These are rented for weddings, baptisms. Each time people see the messages, that makes them more aware and helps them remember that AIDS is there.
WHAT IS A TRANSECT?
Transect walk is a community march.
A transect is a tool to help us identify factors that are all around us even basic things that we overlook which are risks to AIDS. During a transect walk you also observe behaviors that are risky&and you have to show people that these are behaviors that we can change&by working with people.
This is what you can find. By a clinic, there may be objects contaminated with blood syringes, razors, and other things we overlook. You can also see houses that are really clandestine bars, where young people gather, especially young women. That is a risk factor.
And you also find resources that exist. You come across Community Centers like this one, where people can gather, especially women, and get training.
HOW DOES POVERTY CONTRIBUTE TO HIV/AIDS?
Poverty is very, very important, even fundamental. If you look in the shantytowns and you see that people take up prostitution, because they are poor, they are women without anything to eat, nothing for their children or for their familythey take up prostitution, and promiscuity also, if that is a way to generate income. So it is one of the most basic factors in the spread of AIDS, this role of poverty.
WHAT ABOUT THE MENS ROLE IN HIV/AIDS?
We usually talk a lot about women, but men are maybe the most vulnerable, I think. The fact that a man is the head of his family means no one gets after him to do this or that, but instead we say to women you have to behave in such and such a way. Yet the man is free to go out, leave his family, to do whatever he wants. When he comes back, no one asks him What did you do&How did you spend the day?
If he is married, his wife does not even have the right to ask him to use prophylactics or other preventive measures. Men are more responsible, but in a certain sense they are less responsible because they dont recognize the danger they get into outside of their homes.
ON THE TOPIC OF MEN AND POVERTY&
Being poor means the man has no more responsibility, because if you have to provide for your family and you dont have the means and there isnt much to be done about it, the man loses his standing in the neighborhood. He no longer has the right to say to his son or daughter: Dont go there; dont do this or that, because he cant provide for them. They have to go out and hunt for something to eat or something to wear&which can also get them involved in the spread of AIDS.
WHAT MOTIVATES ANBEP AND YOU?
Our motivation is because we work for the development of this community and AIDS is here. Other health programs dont get out into the shantytowns. We have done our own program of prevention to help people and keep them healthy. You cant be concerned with the Well-Being of People, which is in our name, without dealing with AIDS. So we work with our community to educate them about the problems of AIDS.
We started with events and training, members like me, and facilitators to really get to the people and make them aware. We have trainers from each group we work withfor adults we have adults, for women we have women, for the young we have youth&and we even have kids who know something about stopping AIDS who educate their parents.
Why do I do this? We live in the shantytown. There are various problems herepoverty, a lot of things that can go wrong&so I didnt have anything to stop me and I got involved in community development, to make people aware, to help them and be able to show them certain solutions. Im engaged in the fight against AIDS too&we are the couriers who can pass on the message and so we put ourselves into sharing the message with the people of the neighborhood.
I get personally all fired up about this.
My motivation is humanitarian.
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