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Anti - HIV/AIDS Social Cognitive Learning in Botswana

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Challenge

Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa that is roughly the size of Texas, has a growing economy, based primarily on diamond mining, but one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world. A country of 1.6 million with a negative population growth rate, the life expectancy is 32.26 years, owing in large part to AIDS. More than 35 percent of the people are infected. The epidemic continues to gain ground, despite the work of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, to provide counseling and testing to pregnant women and free anti-retroviral drugs to some 7,000 patients.

Strategy

The Centers for Disease Control, under the Modeling and Reinforcement to Combat HIV/AIDS (MARCH) project, funds a radio serial drama, Makgabenang, that has been on the air in Botswana for more than two years. Initially the project focused on creating popular entertainment that carries the critical behavior change messages identified in formative research, and supplementing that with reinforcement activities. Social science research shows that people are most likely to change from risky behavior if they can see role models, similar to themselves, in similar situations, handling choices differently.

Axiom has been closely involved in recruiting and training staff, running script development workshops, determining the technical needs for radio recordings, ordering and installing equipment and training staff in its use, negotiating with Radio Botswana over airtime, and establishing a technical advisory committee.

We have provided regular technical assistance in management, radio production, and script development. We now anticipate providing training in the technical aspects of radio production, from writing dialog and script editing to directing rehearsals and voice acting, and integrating audience feedback into storyline development.

Axiom's work in 2003 focused on developing and following a production and broadcast schedule, improving the technical and artistic quality of Makgabaneng by providing additional training and workshops, and supporting development and execution of promotional activities. Now, Axiom is continuing that role, while developing an effective monitoring and evaluation plan and training local staff to be able to manage the project smoothly in the years to come.

Impact

Measuring the impact of HIV/AIDS programs is a scientific challenge because it involves attempting to determine how many people are affected by a specific program to the point that they change their behavior. One thing is certain: the war against HIV/AIDS will not be quickly won. Axiom's current effort to develop a monitoring and evaluation plan will add to the knowledge about what works in the inexact science of behavior change. Our efforts to develop local knowledge and expertise to maintain the program over the long haul will have long-lasting impact as the people of Botswana continue the difficult process of change.

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