by Mary Makokha, Program Manager
Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Program (REEP)
Popularly known as "the Computer place", WiRED International's Community Health Information Center (CHIC) in Butula is proving to be the best strategy for fighting AIDS. Confirming the popular notion that "information is power," the story of 11-year-old Joseph is a testimony to WiRED's work in this part of the world.
Joseph's aunt had been sick for an extended period of time, and, like the rest of the family, Joseph was convinced that his former uncle's family had bewitched his aunt. This belief was strengthened by the fact that his aunt seemed to experience periods of wellness between her bouts with illness, a factor Joseph and his family attributed to and associated with demonic attacks. Several local "experts" had, in fact, confirmed Joseph's belief and had prescribed several cures, including animal sacrifices. These futile attempts to help his aunt occurred before Joseph joined the peer educators' club in his school.
Members of the peer educators' clubs visit the Community Health Information Center on a regular basis and then provide HIV/AIDS prevention information to their peers. The oral education provided by the young trainers is geared toward abstinence. During one of these visits to the Center, Joseph read an HIV/AIDS CD-Rom from WiRED's medical e-library. That experience changed his life.
"My aunt had signs similar to what I had seen in the HIV/AIDS CD-Rom," said Joseph. Joseph also learned that his family members were in danger of becoming infected with AIDS "because they washed my aunt's wounds without wearing gloves."
Although Joseph was not allowed to participate in adult conversations, he found the courage to state the words that saved his family. "I have seen my aunt's disease on the computer," Joseph told his stunned family. Before anyone could stop him, Joseph advised them to secure an AIDS test. Joseph's father had also suspected that his sister was suffering from AIDS, but as he confessed, "I had no courage to suggest HIV testing." His 11-year old son gave him the courage to urge his family members to heed Joseph's advice. When Joseph's aunt arrived at the Center the next morning for voluntary counseling and testing, she learned that she was HIV positive.
Joseph's father is most grateful for the Center, and now believes that "it is very good for children to learn these things early in life so they will grow up as responsible people."
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