Courage and Hope : Stories from Teachers Living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Woolnough, Alice
Drake, Lesley
Manda, Stella
It is estimated that there are currently approximately 122,000 teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa who are living with HIV, the vast majority of whom have not sought testing and do not know their HIV status. Stigma remains the greatest challenge and the major barrier to accessing and providing assistance to these teachers. The idea to collect stories from teachers living with HIV was inspired during the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) biennial meeting in Libreville, Gabon, in March 2006. At the conclusion of the meeting, Margaret Wambete shared a moving account of her life as a teacher living with HIV in Kenya. Margaret's presentation alluded to the fact that teachers living positively, in part due to their leadership role and in part due to their visibility in society, experience a unique set of challenges related to their HIV-positive status. To emphasize the human dimension of these stories, the technical team worked with journalists rather than researchers. A seasoned journalist responsible for the education section of a major Kenyan newspaper led eight local journalists in documenting these stories. Working with teacher unions and networks of HIV-positive teachers in various countries, a number of HIV-positive teachers were identified as willing participants for this project. The journalists each interviewed teachers living with HIV from their home country and recorded their stories. Once collected, the stories were vetted for accuracy of interpretation and then reviewed more widely at the meeting of the African networks of ministry of education HIV&AIDS focal points in Nairobi in November 2007. From the interactions, the journalists learned that news conferences, reports, or press statements they rely on for information about HIV are not enough. Understanding the HIV challenge requires close association with those living with the HIV virus. These individuals have moving personal testimonies that cannot be captured through hard facts and figures. Only through close interaction can people living with HIV express their fears, needs, and aspirations. Personal testimonies from the teachers are a powerful tool for spreading the message on HIV. Facts and figures are important, but listening to those who have lived through the experiences telling their stories makes the message more potent. The lessons journalists learned from the exercise will surely help them and readers of this book in redefining their perception about HIV, especially in relation to professionals such as teachers.
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Bundy, Donald; Woolnough, Alice; Drake, Lesley; Manda, Stella. 2009. Courage and Hope : Stories from Teachers Living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. Education and HIV/AIDS. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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