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Global Activism: Fighting AIDS in Malawi

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Global Activism: Fighting AIDS in Malawi

In order to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, it's not enough to offer better treatment, or better access to Anti-Retroviral medicines. Better treatments are great, but real prevention means you need to stop new infections from occurring. 

Kathleen Norr is a professor of nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the early 90s, she set up a successful HIV/AIDS prevention and peer-education program in Botswana. Peer-to-peer educational programs offer a lot of advantages. Not only do they provide social support and medical information in the communities where it's used, but it also allows changes to group norms which can change behavior.

Dr. Kathleen Norr is the Malawi program coordinator for UIC's AIDS International Training and Research Program, a collaboration between universities in Malawi to educate public health workers and build research and training infrastructure. Dr. Chrissie Kaponda is a 1996 graduate of the UIC college of nursing and the Department Head of Maternal Child Nursing at the Kamuzu College of Nursing. She's the Malawi Country Coordinator of Mzake ind Mzake–which means “Friend to Friend.”

Mzake ind Mzake Peer Group Intervention for HIV Prevention combines health care with research into gender inequality and social learning.

Using the next-door district as a control, the group acts like an educational “chain letter.” First, it educates health care workers at a large, state-run hospital. Then, those workers use the same curriculum of human sexuality, IV transmission and condom use to teach workers at five rural clinics and leaders in nearby villages. In the next phase, nearly 2,000 adults in the community were trained.

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