Improving the Skills of Peer Educators for Greater Impact
Promoting HIV awareness and behavior change
is a difficult task. But reaching people with
disabilities with these messages is even harder.
This population is often excluded from mainstream
society and many people believe that they have no
need for HIV education and services.
Consolatrice Niyibizi is a blind peer education trainer
with the Rwanda Union for the Blind. She knows
firsthand how dangerous this way of thinking is
because people with disabilities are often at greater
risk for contracting HIV.
"Many people with disabilities rely on family or caregivers
to help them with everyday tasks and are very
dependent," she says.
Sadly, there are many cases of abuse from caregivers,
putting people with disabilities at increased risk for
HIV infection from sexual assaults and certain cleansing
rituals. In addition, tremendous stigma surrounds
sexuality for people with disabilities—they are often
perceived as not sexually active. Whether through
abuse or consensual relationships, people with disabilities
are at risk for HIV infection, and thus in need of
Since 1982, Handicap International has promoted the
rights of people with disabilities. The organization
opened its office in Rwanda in 1994. In 2008,
To target people with disabilities, such as the blind, with HIV messages and services, TA-NPI worked with Handicap International's staff to establish measures of program quality and the tools to monitor them. "The training included national standards for trainers and peer educators," says Gallican Mugabonake, Handicap International Rwanda HIV and AIDS project coordinator. "We have now integrated this information into all disability trainings."
As a partner of Handicap International Rwanda,
Rwanda Union for the Blind previously received
support for gender mainstreaming and HIV awareness.
However, it wasn't until TA-NPI's support
through the NPI grant that Rwanda Union for the
Blind trainers like Consolatrice were given specialized
support in how to train people with disabilities.
"I was taught to train other persons with visual impairment,"
she says, "and have now trained visually
impaired peer education trainers from eight districts
on issues around HIV and disability."
This specialized training reviewed national behavior
change communication guidelines and message
development for the blind, and the information,
education, and communication materials that are available."I now better understand the factors that influence
people with disabilities becoming infected with
HIV," says Consolatrice.
While the additional training Consolatrice received
reinforced her basic knowledge of HIV, most
importantly, it focused on reaching the blind with
appropriate HIV messages and tools. "Something that
helps me train others is the Braille training manual I
received. This unique manual helps me conduct the
peer educator trainings," she says.
In addition, TA-NPI worked with trainers from
Handicap International Rwanda and Rwanda Union
for the Blind to develop referral networks to help
visually impaired people access much-needed HIV
information and services. TA-NPI's assistance with building these networks, coupled with training support
for visually impaired HIV peer educators, has helped
to bring appropriate and accessible HIV information
and services to visually impaired Rwandans.
"The fact that our blind community now has access to
HIV information and counseling and testing, can lead
to a new vision for the future," says Consolatrice."They know they have access to these services and can
now plan the future accordingly." Furthermore, blind
people seeking HIV information feel they now have a
trusted and respectful source. "They listen to the peer
educators and open their hearts to them because they
experience the same problem—blindness."
Technical Assistance to the New Partners Initiative (TA-NPI) is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and implemented by John Snow, Inc. (JSI). The information provided on this web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the CDC or the U.S. Government. The contents are the sole responsibility of John Snow, Inc. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.