Monday, March 8, 2021

Why behavioral change has abysmally failed in HIV/AIDS fight

There are things that happen in life that people, organizations as well as nations seek answers for. Botswana is not an exception.

HIV/AIDS has so riveted our lives our lives that we can no longer ignore any more. As the third president of Botswana Mr. Festus G. Mogae once put it, if you are not infected you are affected.

When the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported, human nature with its excesses when looking for excuses, quickly blamed it on homosexuality.

Then people far removed from homosexuality began to get infected, with Botswana fast becoming one of the world’s highest breeding grounds of HIV/AIDS.

Families were broken because of it and still are. Friendships were shattered beyond repair, marriages were wrecked, and employers sent whichever employee associated with it packing.

In fact, it became a taboo to speak openly about HIV/AIDS. The government could no longer ignore the scourge as it wreaked havoc. Billons of Pula’s were channeled to fight this unknown monster. NACA was formed to spear head the fight against the epidemic.

Mitigation and preventative measures were tabled and Botswana started receiving accolades as head of the pack in fighting this scourge.

In the wake of preventive measure after preventive measure, HIV/AIDS refused to loosen its grip on the country.

Some of the mitigations were Abstain, Condomise and be faithful; O Icheke Campaign, PMTCT, Free testing and counseling and Alcohol/drug Abuse Campaign.

While this raft of preventative and mitigation factors are very good initiatives and are truly needed, they lack a solid foundation.

Behavior change is a process that requires a solid foundation. Trying to take the shortest route is tantamount to being more suicidal.

Imagine the frustration of a farmer who prunes apple trees because he wants to harvest bananas from them. The result will be healthier apples and more frustration.

Experience or money notwithstanding, everything produces after its kind. The simple solution for the farmer is to uproot the apple trees and plant banana trees. Only then will he harvest bananas.
Since behavioral change is now our full focus, have we stopped and looked at the foundation called marriage? No one likes to grow up as an illegitimate child or with only one parent.

The institution of marriage has been so eroded that some find it better not to even think of it. It is not unusual to hear a woman saying “nna ke ipatlela ngwana wagago fela, ga o ka mpha ngwana wa be o tsamaya ke siame,” meaning (I just want to have your child, if you can impregnate me and leave it will be for the better).

As any institution, marriage has its own rules and regulations and failure to abide by them automatically makes it null and void.

Marriage has never been man’s idea and will never be. As a institution, it was founded by God and He laid down principles for it.

A society that takes marriage for granted fails because of moral decadence of families. It seems all have turned a blind eye on the damage done by cohabitation, which seems to have replaced marriage.
Families are founded on marriage and communities give their existence to families. Communities give birth to societies and a nation is formed due to these different societies within the boundary of a sovereign country.

One fundamental question is how behavior change should be used as a pivotal concept to reduce or at best prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

How does a certain behavior become an integral part of a person, family, society etc?
Behavior is learned especially by observing more than anything else.

All the mitigation and preventative measures that have been embarked upon and followed with so much vitality are good but why are we still seeing these efforts not changing the supposed behavior that we so much want to instill?

A story is told of one bird that we all know ÔÇô the ostrich (Mantshwe). While many stories are told about this bird, this one is the most relevant to our discussion today.

One hot summer day in the desert, the ostrich saw his friend the monkey coming towards him. The ostrich owed the monkey and in seeing the monkey the ostrich buried its head in the hot desert sand hoping that in so doing he would avoid the monkey.

To his despair, when he removed his head from the sand, the monkey was still getting nearer. The ostrich repeating this act until the monkey arrived where he was. The monkey was struck with wonderment as to why his friend was continually burying his head in and out of the scotching desert sand.

The lesson to be learned from this short but insightful tale is that we all know that behavior change holds the key to reduction and elimination of HIV/AIDS but have we ever stopped to think about why we are failing despite repeatedly teaching about behavior change?

More effort on behavior change should be channeled on the family. We should be more interested in what kind of children our families produce and why.

The answer lies in the family. The family itself is a product of marriage hence the foundation is not the family but marriage.

In fact family and marriage are synonymous. Let me stop here and ask a rhetorical question. Have any mitigation or preventative measure ever focused on this institution as a way of finding the solution? Your guess is as good as mine.

Why do many people regard marriage as unimportant yet want to have families? Why are people ripe for marriage obsessed with cohabitation? Why do our youth indulge in drugs and sex willy-nilly?
It is because the family has failed to mould and bring up the morally upright youth that we so much desire. Not only that: people ignore that sex is the highest state of intimacy and commitment.

What is someone who is still depending on his/her parent(s) for a livelihood or a school-going child doing engaging in sexual relationships? What is a married person doing in having sex with another person beside his/her spouse?

Moreover why is a young man comfortable to live in with a woman up to seven years but is not ready to commit himself to marriage? Do all of them know that every action one takes he/she also should bear the consequences therefore? Are they committed to the results borne out of this kind of sexual relationships?

If you answer in the affirmative then why do we have countless numbers of single parents? Why do we have a high number of teenage pregnancy and school dropouts due to pregnancy? Further still, why is it that our marital courts are overflowing with divorce proceedings let alone cases of one spouse suing supposed marriage wreckers and why do we have men languishing in jail for not supporting their children?

It all boils down to lack of commitment or disregard for it coupled with lack of discipline.
We have a generation that does not adhere to the principle of commitment or of patience and endurance because marriage is based on the same principles but above them all Love.

Anything you are not committed to will not work out and anything that you are committed to will work out at the end though there are bound to be challenges.

Marriage as an institution is being looked down upon because our generation never took time to understand its rules and regulations.

Without the right purpose abuse is inevitable that is why people married today abuse those that they should be cherishing and doing those things that are contrary to the principles of marriage. A failed marriage equals to a failed strong foundation for a well founded family.

A failed family foundation is dangerous to the society at large. Yes no body is perfect we have all missed it at one point in time but if you have seen the light and acknowledge that you have missed it there is no time to cry over your previous mistakes and abide in them it only causes you more misery. Stop abiding in the darkness and start to follow the light. It is never too late to do right.


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