Extract from national 15/12/08
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Date Posted: Mon, Dec 22 2008, 09:38:22pm
African communities talking sex, AIDS and pictures
Dr T. SCARLETT EPSTEIN OBE reviews “Pictures in AIDucation” a pictorial book by African author Dr Edwin Mavunika Mapara that puts a face on the HIV AIDS virus*
A PICTURE is indeed worth a thousand words and seeing is believing for anyone who picks up this book! Visualise the invisible and picture the unpictureable.. Yes, this book manages the impossible.
Its African author, Dr Edwin Mavunika Mapara, is an international celebrity as a result of his medical contributions in the battle against HIV/AIDS that went on both in Zambia and Botswana. He uses a set of pictures developed by that invaluable charity TALC (Teaching Aids at Low Cost)
Much of what Dr Mapara discusses about the role of various African tribal cultures concerning the spread of HIV/AIDS will ring a bell with PNG readers. But his pride in traditional cultures doesn’t stop him speaking out about the “culture of silence” which doesn’t allow people to talk about sexual intercourse, sexuality, the penis, the vagina, the anus, or even death itself.
He laments that the spirituality in African culture hasn’t been given its due place on the debate relating to HIV infection and AIDS. This omission has helped feed the wrongful belief that HIV infection and AIDS are the punishments handed out to pagans and prostitutes. Worse, some African faith communities even stop AIDS sufferers from taking their lifesaving medication, suggesting that prayer is the better option! The same elders encourage men to have more than one sexual partner, which only heaps petrol on the fire because promiscuity is what fuels the rapid spread of HIV infection.
Dr Mapara rightly criticises the superimposing of Western-originated HIV/AIDS awareness programmes on developing societies which often clash, challenge or totally ignore local culture and custom. With the severe socio-economic impact of HIV and AIDS, he stresses the importance of encouraging local initiatives from the affected societies. He proudly notes that the HIV infection and AIDS projects in which he was engaged in Zambia and Botswana were all designed and organised by local African consultants who worked together with local communities and achieved positive results. He blames the lack of imagination in making HIV infection and AIDS visible to communities throughout developing nations for the early high infection rate.
Pictures in AIDucation were not initiated in Africa by local or foreign experts but initiated by young Africans who wanted to know what HIV and AIDS was all about. This AIDucation puts a face on the virus; encouraging debate and experience sharing about sexual matters between facilitator and community members. Thus, communities are empowered to run their own programmes.
At first there was quite a lot of opposition from doctors, who thought the use of pictures to be “radical and controversial” and elderly traditionalists who initially considered the pictures as un-African and which broke age-old taboos by encouraging sexual discussions. However, the positive results of using pictures in AIDucation - such as the critical questioning of the controversial cultural practices that were spreading HIV infection - have led to it being accepted not only as a national policy in Botswana but also win international acclaim.
Dr Mapara makes the point that that every picture tells a story, a critical lifesaver in Pictures in AIDucation. Pictures in AIDucation are vital not only as part of prevention efforts but even more so to ensure care for those who are already victims of HIV or AIDS victims.
The book includes 24 pictures and useful discussion guidelines with each of them. I include here four of these pictures to give the reader a better idea of what these pictures show.
If you’ll excuse the pun, this novel approach and its wealth of pictures offer something that money can’t buy: the experiences of those in Africa who paid a price of pain and sorrow to learn what others in PNG can now do by simply reading...and appreciating...this remarkable book. It would make a great Christmas gift! Have a word with Santa.
Pictures in AIDucation: African Communities Talking Sex, AIDS and Pictures, by Dr. Edwin Mavunika Mapara,2008 , Trafford Publishing , North America & International, 181 pages; quality trade paperback (softcover); catalogue #07-2591; ISBN 1-4251-5757-2; US$19.21, C$19.21, EUR13.13, £9.92
The book can be purchased on line from the publishers http://www.trafford.com/4dcgi/view-item?item=22039 or from www.Amazon.co.uk
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