The most rewarding project that I worked on while in Swaziland was an HIV awareness video. I was approached by Dr. Ekta Elston of Good Sheppard Hospital, the Swaziland Department of Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to produce a series of videos to address the prevention, transmission and treatment of HIV. The videos will be eventually be available, in clinics and hospitals throughout the entire country. Swaziland currently has the highest HIV rate in the world, approximately one in four. With distribution being so wide, hopefully these videos will influence people to consider safe health practices.
One of the main factors that continues the proliferation of HIV is Swaziland is disclosure. People who have disclosed their HIV status have been treated with prejudiced and alienation. This social pressure creates fear, so people refuse to get tested. If the population doesn’t know their status, the virus spreads. What people need to realize is that, HIV is not a death sentence. Especially in Swaziland where people have access to free universal antiretroviral treatment (ART), funded largely by PEPFAR. Knowing your status is simply the first step. If you know your status, you can begin treating it with medication and start family planning to stop the spread of the virus to your partner.
The interviewees in the videos are representatives from the Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (SWANNEPHA). SWANNEPHA is a wonderful organization that offers emotional support to HIV positive clients throughout the country. They are fighting disclosure head-on by appearing in these videos, openly discussing their experiences living with HIV. I hope that viewers will take this example and take control of their health and their future by taking the first step and getting tested, Hamba Uyohloa!
This stop-motion explains how the immune system works, how HIV enters the body and how antiretroviral treatment can revive your immune system so that even if you have HIV you can fight off disease. The whole movie is in Siswati so here is a brief explanation of the icons:
Buffaloes=CD4 Cells, responsible for activating the immune system.
Shields=White Blood Cells, defends the body against sickness.
Little Green Slugs=Germs, enters the body through open wounds.
Pink Circles=HIV Virus, invades white blood cells and CD4 cells debilitating the immune system.
Blue Pills=Antiretroviral Medication, stops HIV replication and restores the immune system.
The entire movie is available on the the Peace Corps Swaziland YouTube channel: