Adolescent Girls and Young Woman (AGYW) are defined as females between ages 10-24. They account for 71% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Young women and girls in Uganda are twice as likely to be living with HIV as boys and men of the same age and account for one in four new infections. (PEPFAR) HIV/AIDS is a rampant epidemic in Uganda and is propelled by a lack of knowledge or training on prevention and education around stigma reduction.
Challenges presented by the pandemic have led to serious regression of the gains made earlier in the battle against HIV/AIDS infections, stigma, domestic violence and other push-factors. The shutdown of schools, community activities and NGO programmes has meant a rapid increase in stigma.
For the past three years, PEPFAR has supported a programme that Brass for Africa carries out, which integrates music, life-skills training and HIV/AIDS education.
Twice a week, Brass for Africa delivers music and life-skills sessions to Tender Talents Magnet School in Gayaza, Kampala. From these sessions, we have formed groups among the participants, with each one selecting a Healthcare Ambassador among themselves. Brass for Africa prints government material with HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence (GBV) information which they can then share in their groups, with the help of the Healthcare Ambassadors.
Every week, a member of Brass for Africa staff goes to Tender Talents and continues the training using these materials. On top of this, a monthly workshop takes place with an external local facilitator – either a doctor, or a focal person for youth health, who is able to answer any further questions that the participants may have surrounding HIV/AIDS and GBV.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF HIV/AIDS KNOWLEDGE AND AWARENESS CLUBS?
The purpose of these Health Clubs and groups is to create Healthcare Ambassadors among the young participants. By being equipped with the appropriate information and training, they are able to disseminate HIV/AIDS information to help their peers and other people in their communities with stigma and infection reduction.
The sessions engage children and young people in meaningful and productive discussions, projects and lessons about HIV/AIDS. We have a programme in Kalangala District where this program is conducted in partnership with The District Health Office. They help expose hidden risks in the community which can be acted upon to reduce risk factors associated with HIV/AIDS infection and gender-based violence. This in turn allows us to create Healthcare Ambassadors by being equipped with the appropriate information and training.
WHY IS MUSIC EDUCATION AND LIFE-SKILLS TRAINING KEY?
Music is a key tool in this process. How? By engaging in the music programmes, the young participants are able to develop crucial skills such as confidence, communication and teamwork. These life skills are pivotal in helping the young Ambassadors go out into their communities to enforce change. In the programme we are working with healthcare centres, where the participants go out and associate with people living with HIV/AIDS and also interact with doctors, healthcare providers and counsellors. Building their confidence and communication through the music helps them understand how to approach these different people.
Tender Talents Magnet School – one of our partner outreaches in Uganda, recently took part in a wonderful event at Kasangati Hospital, sponsored by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief). Through music performances and speeches, participants from the Bronze, Silver and Gold level bands were able to meet and interact with patients from the hospital who are living HIV positive.
Hassfah and Charles, two participants from Tender Talents, and both trained Healthcare Ambassadors, shared their thoughts from the event:
“Today has been a great today, we have learnt many things from this programme and we thank Brass for Africa for everything they have done for us. For me, learning music has taught me how to talk to people, and today that confidence helped me a lot to stand and speak”. – Hassfah
“I really enjoyed the day. I think that we learnt a lot from those who spoke at the hospital, and that they learnt a lot from us too. It was really touching how they shared their stories, and through learning music I have increased my confidence in how I talk about HIV/AIDS”. – Charles