SAVE Toolkit Training for South African Council of Churches (Western Cape) 13th-15th October, 2015 at Pelican Lodge, 18 Jacana Lake, Zeekoevlei Cape Town
Background of SAVE
In 2003, members of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (ANERELA+) 1 developed SAVE as a more inclusive approach to address many facets of the HIV epidemic. The SAVE response (Safer Practices, Access to Treatment, Voluntary Counselling and Testing, and Empowerment) originated as a reaction to build on the strengths and shortcomings of the ABC approach (Abstain, Be faithful, Use a Condom). The ABC approach has long been used as the foundation of ‘comprehensive’ HIV prevention programmes around the world. ABC’s sole focus is on sexual transmission—a focus that fails to address other modes of HIV transmission that are non-sexual yet equally important. Additionally, by only focusing on HIV prevention, the approach falls short to include testing, care and treatment for people living with HIV as well as the empowerment of children, youth, women, men, families, communities and nations to most effectively address the epidemic. Finally, SAVE aims to overcome the inaccurate connection inferred by the ABC approach between immorality and HIV, which further creates additional stigma surrounding HIV. The ABC approach implies that people who are HIV positive have failed at abstinence and being faithful. It also suggests that people should abstain and that condoms are a last resort. SAVE provides a more holistic and non-judgmental approach to HIV by incorporating the principles of ABC, whilst addressing its gaps by confronting all structural drivers of the epidemic. It comprehensively gives information related to HIV and AIDS, methods of HIV transmission and how to mitigate these. It gives users a step by step methodology of addressing sensitive issues such as sex, sexuality and gender in an open, informative and non-stigmatizing way which doesn’t avoid otherwise difficult issues. Having highlighted this, one may want to ask whether SAVE is a replacement of the ABC approach, NO!, SAVE is not a replacement of the ABC but it does incorporates ABC under Safer Practices, whilst going further by covering all underlying factors that shape the scale of the epidemic. SAVE upholds the notion that everyone has the right to access information and to appropriate HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. In particular, SAVE challenges the stigma that often prevents men, women and children to seek HIV testing or disclose their HIV status, as a major driver of the epidemic. Empowerment through education and a shift in attitudes can have a significant impact in reducing the spread of HIV. It is a framework for preventing the spread of HIV and caring for those who have the virus, irrespective of how they contracted it. SAVE encourage people to understand the limitations of the ABC approach as a stand-alone message.
Western Cape participants posing for a group photo
This report highlights the proceedings of a three-day SAVE Training workshop of Religious Leaders on HIV prevention interventions with special focus on effective communication. 34 participants were drawn from the Christian faith perspective i.e. Religious Leaders and participants from other organizations. The workshop took place at Pelican Lodge, 18 Jacana Lake Zeekoevlei, Cape Town.
SACC Western Cape organized the workshop and engaged INERELA+ to facilitate the SAVE training so as to have an opportunity to learn and have an in-depth understanding of the SAVE model as an appropriate HIV prevention strategy. Health is linked to other factors such as peace, love, pleasure, success, security, comfort and positive esteem of the community. This is the reason for the inclusion of Religious Leaders as part of the community to be at the epicenter of solving their own health problems because they have the ability to respond to various health challenges. Each day of the workshop began and ended with a prayer then followed by recap of the previous day’s work.
The first day Rev Phumzile Mabizela welcomed all participants present and opened the floor to Rev Vena of South African Council of Churches, Western Cape for the introduction of participants. This was trailed by an opening prayer.
It was hoped that the workshop will help:
- To equip participants with a framework for effective communication on HIV transmission, prevention and management in a non-stigmatizing manner;
- To promote the use of SAVE model as a holistic HIV prevention strategy; and
- To strengthen the competence and skills of participants so as to build a crew of trained human resource who will facilitate the roll out of SAVE model in their congregations.
- Participants to have an understanding of the commonly used terms in HIV and AIDS.
- Participants on how to approach the LGBTI people living with HIV and AIDS.
- Participants to develop HIV and AIDS programmes in their congregations.
The expectations were as follows:
- All participants to participate
- What is INERELA+?
- Fully equipped on the subject of the workshop
- Learning something new
- Changed in terms of the current perspective on the strategy of the workshop
- Breaking new grounds
- Utilized to the fullest
- Empowering communities about HIV and AIDS
- Way forward from the workshop
- HIV and AIDS in our churches – what are we going to do?
- Brainstorming of solutions to HIV and AIDS
- Respect opinions of others
Relevant Programme Area
- Capacity building training on the SAVE Toolkit.
The immediate outcome was that the trained Religious Leaders will then roll out the implementation of SAVE at congregational level imparting the knowledge they have acquired during the training to their congregations who in turn will sensitize the community with a view of eliminating stigma and discrimination through a non-judgmental approach.
Main activities and methodologies
- Group work
- Feedback from group discussions
- Question and answer sessions
- Personal stories
Most participants appreciated the presentation of the SAVE Toolkit strategy from the ABC approach. It was noted that ABC approach has limitations as compared to the SAVE model which is holistic in its preventive approach; for instance ABC does not take into account other modes of transmission such as transmission of mother to child. Participants now have a broader knowledge that the ABC approach focuses only on sex and not inclusive of other issues related to HIV and AIDS. Learning of the buzz words SSDDIM especially on stigma and discrimination words are often a challenge in congregations and communities. The facilitator put it strongly that stigma is the killer and danger than the HIV virus itself.
Participants happily displaying their Toolkits during the training
Religious Leaders reiterated that they need skills, information and enthusiasm to invite the facilitator to their congregations. They emphasized that accurate knowledge and information is vital to achieving good results whereas ignorance and misconceptions exaggerates the plight of people living with HIV and AIDS. The facilitator Rev Mabizela emphasized that HIV infection thrives where there is no accurate information. People’s perception of gender and sex is dynamic; it is surrounded by myths and misconceptions which are often a huge contributor to the rise of HIV infections.
The new school advocated by the SAVE Toolkit strategy will change attitudes of the congregations and communities. HIV has affected every family in the region of Western Cape, though measures to curb the spread of infection have been put in place, concerted efforts need to be scaled up in order to have zero new HIV infection in communities. It was agreed that there is need to break the silence surrounding sex and sexuality issues and also the need to create an enabling environment for open dialogue with children. Participants generally observed and agreed that poor communication on sex and sexuality and use of condoms were among many contributing factors to the spread of HIV in their communities coupled with multiple concurrent sexual partnership and bad health seeking habits which remain a huge challenge in communities and congregations. The facilitator reiterated that HIV is still a global issue. Research states that HIV prevalence rate is escalating even in the age group of 60-70 not excluding the youth age group.
It was agreed that there is need to be open as people and break the silence so as to initiate open dialogue with children and youth on health reproduction and HIV, invite youth for a Sunday plenary session to advocate SAVE Toolkit and start with safer topics and move to the difficult issues. It emerged that Religious Leaders are no longer engaging in home visits with their congregations, as they do not understand real issues on the ground. Participants appreciated the information that they acquired and acknowledged that the way people socialize in their congregations and communities was contrary to what they learnt. As a word of advice, the facilitator emphasized the point that research reveals that children coming from families who talk openly about sex and sexuality have minimal chances of early sexual debut thus low risk of teenage pregnancy.
Reverend Mabizela in action during the SAVE Toolkit training
Day 2 focused on the topic of gender and how it can contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS if not taken seriously in HIV and AIDS issues. Most participants appreciated the topic of gender which made them to realize how gender issues can negatively affect society. Participants were excited and appreciated the presentation of introduction to treatment by Andile from Treatment Action Campaign
(TAC). The presentation was informative and participants had a better understanding knowing both the positive and negative spin-offs of ARVs on the human body. A new vaccine was introduced in South Africa. WHO came out with new guidelines for use on Antiretroviral drugs in HIV treatment and prevention; the guidelines state that ART should be offered to everyone living with HIV at any CD4 count. The guidelines are a powerful tool for advocacy. The day was interactive and participation was good, as some participants were free to share their personal sexual information, which was an indicator that participants appreciated the training. Throughout the day, deliberations were emphasizing on good health and treatment. It was noted that safe practices need to be promoted especially among people living with HIV, even those who do not know their HIV status and those who are HIV negative also need to adhere to safe practices and avoid risk behaviors such as multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, intergenerational sexual practices, Gender-Based Violence and other harmful sexual practices.
The facilitator cited a reference text from Genesis 1 which states that women are also human beings and have skills they can display and should not be suppressed in their thinking. Culturally, the society is based on patriarchal thinking that a man is a better being, therefore, in this era we need to reconsider gender equity and equality. In the Church, gender is still an issue: no shared responsibilities are genuinely practiced; and the church must not discriminate and stigmatize people along gender lines because it belongs to the community. Religious Leaders should embrace and show unconditional love to the community irrespective of the person’s sexuality orientation and gender.
One of the participants during the female condom line-up
On day three, participants shared a message of devotion from Mark chapter 12 vs 38-44. The message openly shared opinion around information on gender issues, sex and sexuality, economic human rights, stigma and discrimination. Stigma and Discrimination not only focus on HIV, we also encounter the challenge in the midst of the people we live with. The day was interactive and participation was good.
In a nutshell, the day focused on the need for positive attitude towards health and behavior generally among other people who need to be encouraged to consistently and correctly use condoms, go for VCT, avoid multiple sexual relations, avoid sharing needles and other sharp instruments and lastly men participants were urged to go for clinical male circumcision at health facilities as a follow-up to find if it the male circumcision was performed correctly. This help them to minimize the rate of being infected by STIs; and all this brought out realities faced in congregations as part of the communities.
Members of the interim committee posing for a photo
The training went well as there were no major disturbances, except for interruptions on some participants arriving late for the training. Participants got oriented and empowered on the use of SAVE Toolkit strategy as a holistic HIV prevention intervention. Objectives of the workshop were met as feedback from the participants’ evaluation revealed. Participants were given a SAVE Toolkit each for use in their work of implementing SAVE at congregation level cascading it to their respective communities.
Observations and Recommendations
- Most participants were arriving late for the training citing that they were having other pressing issues to attend as a result of which they didn’t fully acquired the knowledge they need for a positive transformation in their respective congregations. The danger of this is that the training will end up producing half-baked Religious Leaders who will fail dismally to implement at congregation level and community level too thus failing to curb both the HIV prevalence rate and eliminate stigma and discrimination hence the facilitator Rev Mabizela will liaise with the organizers of SACC Western Cape to set a date to convene a 1 day training workshop for the participants which did not attend the full training.
- The facilitator (Rev Mabizela) made a recommendation to Rev Vena of SACC Western Cape, that they would love SACC Western Cape convene another workshop on Spiritual Theology on Contextual Bible study.
Any other matter
South Africa is a very big country with a total of 9 provinces and in order to get rid of stigma and discrimination and HIV prevalence rate, the SAVE Toolkit training has to be taken to other provinces as well depending on the availability of funds.
- Attendance register
- This report
- Bookings for flights and the hotel
- 55 SAVE Toolkits distributed to the trainees.
Participants elected an interim committee to convene a meeting with Religious Leaders from other Interfaith based organizations and the MEC for Health on roll out of the SAVE Toolkit in the health facilities and congregations.
The Committee will be represented by 7 organizations present in the SAVE training workshop as follows:
|2.SACC Western Cape||Bishop Lucas Mqantsa|
|3.Greater Commission||Rev Aaron Makili|
|5.Leadership Gen||Nqabisile Ndabeni|
|7. COSAT||Nomphelo Magwa|
Although the training was successful, relevant and an eye opener to what needs to be done in order to mobilize Religious Leaders, still a lot needs to be done at congregational level to ensure that the Religious Leaders are implementing as per their promises. The training was successful though but they were several things that plagued it for instance, the issue of participants attending sessions late citing other commitments. This does nothing more than producing half-baked Religious Leaders who will fail to implement not only at congregation level but also at community level and in the long run the trainings will amount to nothing especially if they fail to meet their goal of eliminating stigma and discrimination as well as reducing the HIV prevalence. Again it will fail dismally to have a paradigm shift in the minds Religious Leaders who will continue to use the pulpits to judge people because of their sexual orientation thereby escalating the rate of HIV and AIDS among the LGBTI community.
|Likes||Wishes in future trainings|
· Very lively and good presentation from the facilitator(Rev Mabizela), also the manner she maintained the energy level was amazing;
. Have separate training workshop for Religious Leaders to maintain dignity and not include youth;
· Not only Religious Leaders were invited, other organizations from the community were also invited and it shows good spirit;
· Need to increase more days since the SAVE Toolkit is comprehensive, three days were not enough;
· SACC Western Cape must organize another workshop on SAVE Toolkit;
|·Give out SAVE Toolkit on the first day and agenda to pre-plan for the next day’s session;|
.The facilitator know how to speak to the participants to bring all to their level of understanding irrespective of their educational background;
|· Communicate on time about the details of the workshop and find out on participants dietary requirements.|
·Learn a lot from the facilitator’s presentation skills.
List of participants