Radio Listening Groups for People Living with HIV and AIDS
The National Association for People Living with HIV /AIDS in Malawi (NAPHAM) is an organization that works with people living with HIV through community support groups. NAPHAM was chosen in 2009 as a partner to implement BRIDGE II project interventions. NAPHAM implemented four interventions in its support groups, namely the Hope Kit, the Planting Our Tree of Hope Toolkit (popularly known as the Positive Prevention Toolkit), Radio Listening Groups and Interactive Drama. These interventions were first introduced in two support groups in each of the three districts of Thyolo, Phalombe, and Chiradzulu. In 2011, the project was scaled-up to support groups in Nsanje.
Radio Listening Groups
The majority of NAPHAM support groups listened to the Chenicheni Nchiti? (CCN) radio program together throughout the implementation of BRIDGE II. The members listened to CCN to acquire more knowledge about HIV and AIDS and about how they could practice positive living via stories of other role models who are living positively with HIV and speaking openly about their life experiences in the program. Additionally, the members learned more about habits that could predispose them to spreading HIV to others. As the program began to incorporate other issues, such as malaria, members were then encouraged to put into practice other preventive health behaviors to help them live a healthy life.
On days that CCN aired, support group members would meet in one place. One support group member would bring a radio, while another would bring batteries. After listening to the program, the batteries were removed and returned to the member who did not own a radio set, for safekeeping. Members contributed money towards the purchase of batteries when they ran out, as part of their contribution towards the project. One positive aspect of this practice was that some support groups bought their own radio sets and stopped relying on individual members to bring radio sets from home.
Radio Listening Group Members and Locations
There were 1,450 support group members in the 24 support groups affiliated with the BRIDGE II Project, and these members also participated in the radio listening sessions. To facilitate in-depth discussion, members were divided into small groups of not more than 25 people. Each small group had 2 facilitators who led discussions on the radio program. The members were in 6 support groups from the four districts of Phalombe, Thyolo, Chiradzulu and Nsanje districts.
After listening to the radio program, the facilitators led discussions with their groups. The discussions were guided by a set of questions included in the Activity Participation Form. The facilitator encouraged all group members to participate in the discussion and recorded the groups’ answers to the discussion questions once the answers were agreed upon by all members. The facilitators recorded the answers on three answer sheets: the support group secretary kept one answer sheet, while two were sent to the NAPHAM District Coordinator’s office in the district. Upon receiving the Activity Participation Forms, the Coordinator kept one and sent the remaining form to the NAPHAM secretariat in Lilongwe. A register of all the people who attended the radio listening session accompanied the answer sheet. At the secretariat, the data included in the attendance register was then entered into a database. Finally, a copy of the attendance register was sent to BRIDGE II in Lilongwe.
Impact of Radio Listening Group Participation
Support group members did not engage community members at large with the messages from CCN. However, discussions on issues raised in the program did filter into the homes of radio listening group participants. Female listening group members were especially prone to discussing issues from the program with their husbands at home, in cases where the husband was not a support group member. Some even listened to the program in the evening with their partners. Further, some female members testified about the positive change of behaviors by their husbands after listening to the radio programs on their own in their homes. Some radio listening group members reported that other support group members across the country listened to CCN and appreciated the issues being raised in the program.
Monitoring of Radio Listening Groups
NAPHAM District Coordinators carried out monitoring and mentoring visits to the support groups on a monthly basis. They monitored how the facilitators were leading the discussions and whether they offered additional support to group members in the form of mentorship.