At the moment, as sexual health educators, we have taken it for granted that the community reads posters and newspapers or listens to the radio regularly enough to get well informed on HIV/Aids in particular, and on sexually transmitted diseases in general. To one’s surprise, the number of those infected is still rising.
Individual behaviour towards health is determined by a personal commitment on the part of our clients. Our outreach approach so far has been far too general.
In the African setting, it is not easy to initiate direct personal communication on sexual health. But we must consider this as imperative if we are to communicate sexual health information effectively.
It is generally said that communication involves passing messages to those around us, sharing ideas, feelings and knowledge.
It is a two-way process which involves listening to and learning from others even as we import our knowledge to them.
To ensure effective communication, we should have a clear understanding of and respect for the social and cultural setting of clients.
This is because cultures and norms differ from area to area and the extent to which we succeed or fail will depend on the extent to which our aspirations reflect the aspirations of our clients. The mistake we often make is to move into the community as if we know everything and the community knows nothing. The end result is a failure to achieve the desired response.
So, before we take or distribute condoms to a group or a community, we should ensure that the community has at least grasped something on STD’S and HIV/Aids and on why we are distributing those condoms or we will find them on the streets the following day.
I will summarize by saying that before we dominate or impose what we know, we should:
Know the group, their beliefs and their traditional ways of discussing and expressing sexuality;
Plan our training or discussions with care. It even pays to find out about the venue and environment suitability to the participants, the group or age group and the language to be used;
Let the participants explain how they can ensure effective sexual health education in the context of their culture. It is even better and more effective to have them decide and agree on preventive measures rather than imposing these measures on them as the case is now.
The tendency to impose our ideas on communities has left communities wondering as to whose interest we represent. Sometimes the health educators take off immediately after delivering their message leaving no one to continue presenting accurate information and responding to whatever questions the community may wish to ask.
We should always use appropriate training techniques for each topic being presented. The local people should remain with sufficient accurate information and must have a trainer/counsellor within the area.
It can even be more beneficial, especially in rural areas, to use the cultural/scientific method of sexual health education emphasizing the possible dangers of not changing attitudes or not following instructions.
From now on, let us present our ANTI-AIDS/STD campaigns from a social-cultural perspective. Remember! Good health can be a legacy from one generation to the next.
I hope we can try.