Most days I do not sit in the staff room.
In my first year, I knew it was important for the teachers to get used to me so I usually hung out there or in the computer lab with a few other teachers. Most of the time they would talk over me in Sesotho but, gradually, they started involving me in the conversation.
This year I spend time between classes in the library, hoping my presence will encourage use. I usually eat lunch, whether it is from the school’s kitchen or my own, in the staff room. But, again, the conversation is mostly Sesotho that I don’t understand.
Some days, though, they do speak enough English for me to follow along. One day a staff member asked me if it is OK for me, personally, to tell people if I were HIV positive. I said that I would so that I could help other people and this led to a great discussion about testing and HIV.
Many said that if they were about to get married and their partner told them he was positive, they would cancel the marriage because he was not honest. They also said they would never tell someone if they were positive and one even admitted that she was too afraid to know.
This is when I brought out my DAR (district AIDS representative) hat and tried to tell them the benefits of knowing and how they can do so much more for their lives if they know than if they don’t. I also really wanted to stress that you can still live a happy life if you are positive but you have to know.
I am not sure my message was absorbed or completely understood, but this was a start. These are the little moments when we PCVs can ignite change and spread knowledge about a disease that is killing so much of this population. Maybe this 10-minute conversation won’t ignite behavior change but it got them thinking, which is the first crucial point.