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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #181

World AIDS Day special edition

December 1 is World AIDS Day, when we stop to consider progress made towards overcoming the disease, and raise awareness about people living with HIV and AIDS. The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced some encouraging news in this year’s World AIDS Day report. The rate of new HIV infection in sub-Saharan African countries has dropped dramatically. Find the press release and links to the full report here.

We bring three inspiring new stories, written especially for Farm Radio Weekly. The common theme is living healthily. From Kenya, we hear how Robert Amakobe started up a pioneering men’s support group. Find out how, through growing vegetables, they have overcome stigma and become well-known for assisting others in their community.

James Ndlovu from Zimbabwe was diagnosed HIV positive five years ago. After counselling, he decided that one way to improve his situation was through hard work on his farm. Read how his life has changed since his diagnosis.

In Malawi, John Chaoneka decided to learn more about herbal medicines and the nutritional benefits of fruit and vegetables. He tested positive for HIV in 2010 and now runs a clinic from his house, supplying hundreds of people with treatments to help boost immunity.

Thanks to all involved for sharing their stories. We’d love to hear how you use these stories in your programs: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

Please be advised that we are taking a one week publishing break. We will be back in your inbox December 13!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Men’s group fights stigma through farming (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

In 2007, Robert Amakobe went public and declared that he was HIV positive. He formed the Elwesero Men’s Support Group with other men who were public about their HIV status. It was a difficult time.  Some of the men’s own relatives turned against them. The reaction from the wider community was worse. Other men threatened them and wrote abusive letters. But the group continued despite the challenges.

Theirs was probably the first men’s HIV support group in Kenya. It has become an important force in diffusing the stigma around HIV and AIDS in their community. It benefits individual members as they work together to improve their health and livelihoods. And the group even raises funds to support others affected by HIV and AIDS.

Mr. Amakobe explains why he started the Elwesero Men’s Support Group: “The increased number of deaths was alarming and people did not want to relate it to HIV. They always believed in witchcraft. That’s why I went public and started bringing other men on board.”

There are now thirty members in the group. They range in age from unmarried youths, to older men of 70 and 80 years. They all live with HIV or AIDS.

The group started growing vegetables, including indigenous varieties that have nutrients to boost immunity. The group eats some of the vegetables and sells some in the nearby markets and communities.

When the group started selling vegetables, there was big resistance from the communities. Mr. Amakobe says, “People refused to buy the vegetables from us thinking they would contract HIV andAIDS. But we took the vegetables to the market and members would buy them. When some people saw this, they slowly started buying the vegetables as well.”

This has helped the group receive positive reaction from the communities. Now many people order vegetables from the group. The income pays rent for a small office. The group uses the office to offer counselling to other members and to discuss their own activities. Men who come for counselling feel free to share their problems because they find only men in the room.

Profits from the vegetables are also used to help group members who are bed ridden and to support 23 children who are orphans, or in vulnerable situations due to HIV and AIDS. The men’s group pays the children’s school fees and covers other necessities.

In addition to farming, the group supplies seeds and trains farmers on how to plant crops, and which vegetables to eat in order to boost immunity. Mr. Amakobe says with proper diet, one can live long before starting on anti-retroviral treatments. The group believes that treatment is not only about drugs, but also food, exercise, and living happily.

The group has brought more men on board by speaking in public. Some group members were trained by an organization called Society for Women and AIDS in Kenya. The training focused on getting HIV positive men to come out openly, accept their status, disclose it to their families, and then go public. Once they go public, they need to know how to deal with stigma from their families and communities. This has seen Mr. Amakobe and his colleagues move in different forums, including funerals, where they ask for time to announce their status and describe how they are coping.

The group still has some challenges. The members have a greenhouse but no water. The stream to fetch water is very far which makes it difficult for the men to carry the water for the vegetables. Sometimes hospitals don’t have enough drugs, so they have to buy them for members.  Another challenge Mr. Amakobe cites is high expectations from the community, because everyone knows them and their work. He says, “When a person gets bed ridden, but [is] not a member [of our group], they will call us saying your patient is here, come and pick him.” This shows how much the group has accomplished in a few short years. They have succeeded in changing attitudes and improving lives.

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Zimbabwe: Defeating HIV and AIDS stigma and living well through improved farming (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Many people who discover that they are HIV positive lose all hope in life. But James Ndlovu is living his life according to the saying “do not be negative about being HIV positive.” Mr. Ndlovu is a small scale farmer from Insiza district in the Matabeleland South province of Zimbabwe. He and his wife Sifiso were diagnosed five years ago. Since then, the couple has been dedicated to improving their lives by improving their farm. At the same time, they have enlightened their community with their farming skills and attitude.

Mr. Ndlovu admits that it was hard and painful to accept his status when he tested positive. Some of his friends labelled him a walking accident. But counselling by home-based care givers changed his attitude. He says, “Yes I’m living with the HIV virus and I think that painful fact has consolidated my attitude towards [a] better life through hard work.”

That hard work has taken place on the family farm. Caregivers advised Mr. Ndlovu and his wife  to improve their diet, so they began growing vegetables and fruits.  Mr. Ndlovu has also been working closely with extension workers and veterinary officers to improve his farming methods. He learned how to use fertilizers and cattle manure to increase soil fertility and improve yields. He also learned how to use herbicides and insecticides.

He adds, “What I have also learned is that in order for one to be a successful farmer, capital is needed for machinery such as planters and cultivators.” Mr. Ndlovu has been able to use this equipment. He says, “Despite the fact that I’m working on a small piece of land, my output per hectare has continued to increase.”

He also uses modern methods to keep his animals healthy. He says, “I’m now my own veterinary officer. I recently bought a full kit for animal diseases control, which has all the doses and vaccines.”

Mr. Ndlovu set a goal to harvest a minimum of four tonnes of maize each year, and he has achieved this goal! A larger harvest has meant more income for the family. Money from selling produce allowed Mr. Ndlovu to acquire seven heifers and a cart in 2009, alone. He has never failed to pay school fees for his two children who are currently attending secondary school.

The couple is now living a healthy life, with good annual harvests in both their maize field and fruit and vegetable garden. Mr. Ndlovu emphasizes that they derive their strength from taking their antiretroviral drugs in a regular and timely manner. They cement this by eating nutritious food rich in vitamins.

Alfina Sibanda is an extension worker in Insiza district. She confirms that Mr. Ndlovu is a dedicated communal farmer who has bravely fought the stigma associated with people living with HIV and AIDS. She says: “He has created a name for himself through his extraordinary farming skills. He is doing what we are recommending and that is working well for him.” She says that extension workers use occasions such as World AIDS Day to advise farmers to go for testing early, and to get appropriate medical care.

Ndlovu’s wife, Sifiso, notes that treatment, a good diet, and a positive attitude are key weapons to fight the virus. Through successfully improving their farming methods and increasing yields, the couple has earned respect from the community. This has overcome a lot of the stigma around HIV. Indeed, Mr. Ndlovu has won the hearts of many fellow farmers who have re-christened him “Ndlovu the farmer of farmers.”

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Malawi: Home herb clinic helps many live with HIV (by Norman Fulatira, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

John Chaoneka tested positive for HIV in 2010. He thought it was the end of his life. Little did he know that herbs could help him stay healthy. His life has since changed for the better.

Mr. Chaoneka comes from the Zomba district of Malawi. At 37, he is married with two children. Mr. Chaoneka says he felt dejected when he received his diagnosis. But he discovered an NGO called Development Aid from People to People, or DAPP. DAPP helped him learn the power of herbs.  He says, “After counselling from DAPP, I joined a group of 20 farmers to [learn about] HIV/AIDS, especially what to do to increase immunity using herbs when your CD4 count is low.” The CD4 count is an indicator of a person’s immune health. A low count may mean a person’s immune system is weak.

Mr. Chaoneka built on the little knowledge he had about herbal medicine. With training from DAPP, he became a full scale herbalist. He is now known as Doctor C in his community. With the help of his wife, he opened a makeshift herbal clinic which he operates from his house.

Mr. Chaoneka advises people living with HIV not to despair but to find ways of staying healthy, such as using herbs. He says many farmers in his area are benefitting from his herbs. “I assist over 600 HIV-positive people from around my area with different HIV and AIDS-related ailments such as loss of appetite, sore throat, dizziness, low blood levels, and headaches.”

One of the medicines he prepares is called Power Drink. To make one litre of Power Drink, Mr. Chaoneka mixes one bulb of crushed garlic with the juice of three lemons, three teaspoons of honey, and a sizeable piece of crushed ginger. Water is added. According to Mr. Chaoneka, this drink boosts immunity, reduces a sore throat, and improves digestion.

Mr. Chaoneka grows many herbs in his backyard garden. He says, “Currently some of the herbs I grow in my garden include aloe vera, garlic, hibiscus, and lemongrass.” He also grows vegetables for his family to eat. Mr. Chaoneka sources other herbs from other people’s gardens, or from the bushes around Zomba forest. Mr. Chaoneka’s strategy this year is to reduce the cost of making medicines. He intends to grow more plants and scale up his herb garden. He says, “I want to … get more herbs from within reach and save on time that I spend travelling in search for the herbs.”

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Notes to broadcasters on World AIDS Day 2011

In 1988, the World Health Organization designated December 1 as World AIDS Day. Since then, this is the day when the world remembers people lost to AIDS, takes stock of progress made in halting the disease, and raises awareness to overcome stigma and increase understanding. The theme this year is Getting to Zero. Zero refers to zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

For more information on the 2011 World AIDS Day campaign, visit: http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/world-aids-day/world-aids-day-2011/

For basic background information on HIV and AIDS, go to:



Latest data by country can be accessed at: http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/tools/aidsinfo/countryfactsheets/

Review the stories Farm Radio Weekly published for World AIDS Day, over two editions,last year: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-137/


In January 2005, Farm Radio International published a package of scripts that focused on HIV and AIDS and food security. To find these scripts, go to: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/numerical.asp, and scroll down to Package 73.

Here are more Farm Radio International scripts on HIV and AIDS:

Food is Medicine: HIV/AIDS and Nutrition. Package 65, Script 7, October 2002. http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/65-7script_en.asp

Gender and HIV/AIDS. Package 81, Script 7, August 2007.  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/81-7script_en.asp

HIV/AIDS: Preventing mother-to-child transmission. Package 69, Script 6, December 2003.  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/69-6script_en.asp

Here are some previous news stories on HIV and AIDS published in Farm Radio Weekly:

Africa: Local food essential for HIV-positive people (Issue 53, January2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/01/26/africa-local-food-essential-for-hiv-positive-people-un-integrated-regional-information-networks/

Uganda: Mulago Positive Women’s Network discovers potential of mushroom cultivation (Issue 57, March 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/03/02/2-uganda-mulago-positive-women%E2%80%99s-network-discovers-potential-of-mushroom-cultivation-written-by-joshua-kyalimpa-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kampala-uganda/

World AIDS Day may inspire broadcasters to produce programs or hold activities to mark the day. We would love to hear about your events, and will share them in Farm Radio Weekly. Meanwhile, the following section provides advice and ideas on creating programs that deal with HIV and AIDS, and important messages that your programs can pass on:

Program Planning
Involve people living with HIV and AIDS in your broadcasts. Encourage them to tell their stories on the radio. Withhold their identity if they prefer to remain anonymous.
Remember that media itself can stigmatize people living with HIV and AIDS, and try to avoid this pitfall. For example, radio has a responsibility to notify the public that HIV and AIDS is not a punishment for bad behaviour!
Work with health professionals when preparing programs about the health aspects of HIV and AIDS. You need reliable sources in order to disseminate useful broadcasts and to avoid spreading misinformation.
Work with NGOs to amplify their work and yours. In particular, identify and work with traditional theatre and other groups that use effective ways to reach local people. Dramatizations are most effective when they are followed by a discussion or a call-in show.
Get support from upper management. Explain to supervisors that radio programming can save people’s lives, that there has never been a challenge like HIV before, and that no country can afford to ignore it.

Be bold in taking risks and pushing limits. There is a natural shyness when it comes to talking about sexual relations. But it is impossible to deal effectively with HIV and AIDS without discussing sex openly and frankly. You might take a little heat, but remember that what you are doing is saving lives. In too many places, a conspiracy of silence has allowed HIV to infect and kill millions, and impact every aspect of human life.

Involve youth. Youth is one of the hardest groups to reach. No one can communicate with youth better than youth itself. Give young people basic radio production skills and encourage them to develop their own programming. Their programs will be more interesting and attractive to youth.

Involve adults when you develop programs for youth. Form an advisory committee of parents and community leaders, including religious leaders. This will reduce the chances of strong opposition to the programs.

Incorporate messages about HIV and AIDS into programming on other issues. It is important not to address HIV and AIDS in isolation. In some places it is regarded as a taboo subject or people have become numb to HIV and AIDS messages and have stopped listening.

Add a lighter tone now and again. HIV and AIDS don’t have to be full of dread and death. It is possible to communicate about HIV and AIDS in a humourous and attractive way. Sex is generally a topic that attracts attention and can make people laugh. Capturing the laughter and fun in a race to blow up condoms or fill them with water, or getting people to role play a couple on their first date awkwardly discussing the need for protection can associate prevention with fun rather than fear.
Invite faith-based organizations to discuss their beliefs about tolerance and acceptance and how these principles can be applied to people living with HIV and AIDS. Religious leaders have a role to play in helping people make the link between their religious beliefs and the stigmatization of people living with HIV and AIDS. Ask about teachings that include helping those who are less fortunate.
Beware of misinformation about condoms that is purposely circulated by those who oppose condom use. Broadcasters have a responsibility to correct untruths, including claims that condoms don’t prevent HIV transmission or that they spread HIV. Check with health officials if you are not sure if a rumour is truth or fiction.
Appreciate that HIV is not just another health problem. Think of HIV as a national security challenge. It has the potential to affect every aspect of life in a country. Radio broadcasters have a civic responsibility to ensure that radio is used effectively to reduce HIV infection and diminish its impact.

Important Messages
Point out that testing positive for HIV is not a death sentence. After becoming infected, a person can live a perfectly normal life, showing no symptoms for five to ten years and even longer if they get antiretroviral treatment. The earlier the test is done, the easier it will be to keep healthy, and avoid getting re-infected and infecting others.
Don’t waste time and confuse the public by talking about forms of transmission that may be possible but are very rare. Almost all HIV is sexually transmitted. The second largest transmission mode is from an infected mother to her child, and in almost all cases the mother was infected through sexual transmission. In some countries, injection drug users who share needles risk infection. Make sure that sexual transmission gets the attention it should. Most other methods of transmission are possible but are very, very unlikely − such as cuts from sharp metal objects. People worry too much about getting infected by very unlikely means such as casual contact with body fluids or sharing razors, and do not worry enough about unprotected sexual intercourse.
Remind people that it is impossible to tell if a person is infected with HIV by looking at them or by their background. The vast majority of people who are infected don’t know they are infected; they live perfectly normal lives and show no signs or symptoms. They can be from any walk of life, age, economic group or educational level. HIV doesn’t discriminate, since the great majority of people over 15 years old have sex.

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RNTC training courses

RNTC, a centre for media, development, and education based in the Netherlands, is offering two courses which broadcasters might find interesting. Some fellowships are available to cover costs. Click on the relevant link below for more details.

Internet for journalists. This course will deepen participants’ understanding of the internet as a tool for research and publication. Participants will learn how to create blogs, dossiers, audio, video, and photos for use online.

Course dates: September 10 – October 19, 2012

Deadlines for application: online between November 1, 2011 and  February 1, 2012 (on paper until January 1, 2012). For more information, visit: http://www.rntc.nl/content/internet-journalists.

Educational program production. This course focuses on how journalists can design and produce attractive and effective educational programs and multimedia material by, with, and for young people. The course will deepen understanding of issues relevant to youth and development.

Course dates: September 17 –December 7, 2012

Deadlines for application: online between November 1, 2011 and February  1, 2012 (on paper until January 1, 2012). For more information, visit: http://www.rntc.nl/content/educational-programme-production.

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Updated manual on HIV and AIDS reporting

The Kaiser Family Foundation has updated its HIV and AIDS reporting manual. The extensive manual covers a broad range of subjects, including the unique challenges of reporting on HIV and AIDS, treatment and prevention strategies and global efforts to finance the campaign against HIV and AIDS. It provides definitions of key terms, gives guidelines on ethics and has some useful “frequently asked questions” sections.  You can find the HIV and AIDS reporting manual online: http://www.kff.org/globalhealth/7124.cfm

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Farm Radio International in Spore

Spore, a magazine published by CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) ran a feature-length article entitled “Rural media: New frontiers, new era” in their October-November issue.

The article discusses how radio, video, and print media are currently being used to present issues of importance (like climate change) to farmers, and how these media can provide farmers with useful information. Many interesting examples of rural media are presented, such as radio being used to inform and motivate communities in the Pacific, as they recover from a tsunami which affected their island.

The article also mentions of at least two of Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners, Radio Fanaka in Mali and Radio BisonaBiso in Congo-Brazzaville.

Read the piece in full at: http://spore.cta.int/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&lang=en&id=1900&catid=9

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AIDS support group gives positive people a new lease on life!

Zambia has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Donor support has made it possible for antiretroviral treatments to be available for free to all HIV-infected people in this country. Yet the success of this therapy depends on good nutrition, which is elusive for a large number of Zambians. Many HIV-positive people in Zambia have formed support groups to ease the burden of living with HIV and AIDS. This script tells the story of one such group, Zithandize. This group also encourages its members to grow soybeans for good nutrition.

This script is a drama based on actual interviews. It was written by FiliusChaloJere, from Breeze FM, in Chipata,Zambia, and was a prizewinning script in our recent competition on the theme of healthy communities.


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