Operation Mercy Kazakhstan organized a seven-day HIV/Aids seminar, run by a partner organization, for people to be challenged in their thinking, to change perceptions, to gain the skills to present workshops, and to be equipped to make a real difference in the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
25 people from cities in Central Asia working with the vulnerable, marginalized or people affected by HIV or AIDS attended the training in Almaty.
During the training the participants learnt many things, including the basics of how the virus works, the statistics, transmission and treatment of the disease as well as discovering the needs of people living with HIV, prevention, stigma and discrimination. There was also teaching on what it means to be a compassionate, HIV competent community and how to conduct workshops and adult learning.
The participants’ response to the training was extremely positive. Many of them said that they knew people infected by the disease and they wanted to help them, but before the training they didn’t know how. They were so worried that they themselves would be infected if they got too close to the person as they thought that HIV was spread in the same way that a common cold or flu is. They felt that the training had equipped to them to be able to offer real help and hope to those they knew who are struggling with the disease.
One participant said that after the training he feels that he is at a cross roads and that his life needs to take a new path – a path that teaches people about HIV/Aids and that helps those that are facing this crisis.
One leader from Kazakhstan said that in his city they know an 18-year-old HIV positive girl with a baby. “Without this training, how could we give her hope?” he asked. “Now that have received the facts about the disease we can serve her.”
At the end of the training there was a celebration dinner with traditional food, songs and stories of all the participants had learnt. One play that was performed was of a girl choosing between two suitors. The first suitor was strong and healthy and he was looking for a good time, the second suitor had HIV but he wanted to get married to the girl - he truly loved her and was committed to her and was committed to using precautions to ensure that she wouldn’t be infected – he was also taking ARV’s so would live a long, healthy life. The audience was asked which suitor the girl should choose and the response was unanimously the second suitor!
We are confident that the people who attended the training now have the skills and compassion to teach those in their communities about the disease and that they will be able to give hope to those affected by HIV/ Aids.