Cultural and religious leaders wield great influence in Ugandan communities. This influence spans beyond spiritual matters to health. Religious leaders have been known to discourage followers from accessing HIV treatment or continuing with medication, instead promising spiritual healing. To address the possibility of such a negative outcome, Communication for Healthy Communities (CHC) engaged 62 religious and cultural leaders in eastern Uganda to support activities to encourage their community members to access services to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV (eMTCT).
Working with partners that included the USAID-funded Strengthening TB and HIV/AIDS Responses in East-Central Uganda (STAR EC) project and the Office of the First Lady, CHC developed information packets for the leaders comprised of: a leaders’ handbook, posters and pastoral letters. These tools enabled the leaders to clearly communicate the benefits of antenatal care attendance, HIV testing for pregnant women, and enrollment into HIV care and treatment for women found HIV positive. The messages emphasized the importance of partner support for family planning to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and to ensure that pregnant women deliver at a health facility.
CHC conducted eMTCT orientation sessions for 315 health workers, 23 media practitioners, and 1000 VHTs (village health team members) linked to 112 health facilities, distributed over 5,000 social and behavior change communication (SBCC) materials, and secured airtime on four regional radio stations.