The 3-day HIV awareness seminar took place at Buea Community Church on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 10th, 11th, and 12th of June, 2010. On Saturday the 5th of June, at 11:30, I gave an announcement and a brief talk about the seminar on the Revival Gospel Radio. On Monday the 7th of June, I gave a talk about the seminar on Chariot Radio, at the University of Buea. I was on their radio programme for about 40 minutes. They asked me lots of questions so I got to talk about HINT, the seminar, HIV/AIDS (including here in Cameroon), and my experience in Buea so far.
We had said during the radio announcements and on the registration forms themselves that those not selected as part of the 25 selected trainees were still more than welcome to attend. We had about two or three people complain and suggest that if people do show up for all three days, who weren’t one of the 25 selected, they should still receive a certificate. So we agreed to this.
The chairs were set up with five around each table, facing the front stage. There were two reasons for creating this layout. The first was due to the fact that there were quite a few quizzes and questions that I wanted people to discuss in small groups before sharing their opinions with the whole group. The second reason was that I wanted people to engage with each other and gain confidence in the small group so they felt less intimidated to eventually stand up and speak in front of the whole group (apart from a few exceptions, they were all strangers to each other).
We looked at, “what is HIV/AIDS?” and “how is HIV spread?”
Day 1 of any programme is quite often a bit unpredictable. You don’t know if you’re going to get a group that are really quiet, or energetic, or aggressive, or passive, and it’s almost impossible to know before hand, how much they know about the topics.
We didn’t start the session until 4:15 pm because I wanted to have at least 25 people before we started. We had 35 people attend on this day.
The group was fairly quiet on this first day and I wasn’t sure if it was because they were bored, or if they knew everything. However, at the end of the seminar, I had four people come up to me to let me know they had learnt a lot, that the group was concentrating hard on the material being covered, and they were really happy they were attending. That positive feedback encouraged me to go a bit slower with the material on the second day, and generating a lot of questions and group discussion to make sure people were using the newly gained knowledge to make strong arguments concerning beliefs they had and to answers of the questions.
The session for today was: signs and symptoms of AIDS, HIV testing and treatment, and prevention. This was quite a heavy session as there was a lot of material to cover. I went slowly and thoroughly through the material, asking questions after each topic to make sure everyone was following.
The power went out for about 30 minutes so there were no lights, power for the microphone and the PowerPoint turned off. I had to read from the slides of the PowerPoint on the laptop, hoping the laptop wouldn’t run out of battery. By the time I was reaching the last couple of slides, the electricity came back on so I quickly backtracked for them to see the slides we’d missed (including a picture and a diagram regarding transmission).
On this final day, we looked at the following: the impact of HIV/AIDS on the world, Africa, and Cameroon, the problems we face locally, learning how to counsel others, and finally, teaching adults about HIV/AIDS.
A social worker was sent by Mama Bawa (Christi’s friend and work colleague at the hospital) to talk about HIV management. From testing to treatment. The seminar was going over time on this final day but there was definitely a flow of very interested people asking questions, raising concerns, and sharing stories. I felt that since this way the final day, I didn’t want to stop this flow, when that is really the aim of the seminar. We’d already gone through all the material in the manual. I’d gone to the HIV control centre by the PMI building, and from Mr Joele, I received up-to-date information (about Buea, the South West, and the other nine provinces) on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission statistics including figures on testing, infection rate, and re-testing.
At the end of the session, Levy and I handed out certificates. We took a few group pictures and made sure the 25 people got their 3,000 francs.
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