Allison Prickett, MPH is a Global Health Research Fellow at FHI.

At Stepping Stones International (SSI), located just outside of Gaborone, Botswana, children gather every day for an after-school program that includes activities such as tutoring, life skills lessons, and a meal. In Botswana, 17 percent of the population is living with HIV and 64 percent of children ages 10-18 have been left orphaned by the epidemic. SSI provides a safe and nurturing environment where orphaned and vulnerable children can gain the skills they need for a bright future.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with FHI colleagues from North Carolina and Botswana as we partnered with SSI to pilot-test educational activities pertaining to HIV. Much of the HIV epidemic in Botswana is attributed to the social norm of having multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships (MCPs), locally known as having “a small house.” MCPs are particularly dangerous for a couple of reasons. When someone first becomes infected with HIV, that person has a high viral load, meaning they are highly infectious and are much more likely to rapidly spread the disease to their partners. And secondly, by their nature, MCPs create a large sexual network through which the virus navigates. The government of Botswana recently initiated a campaign, O Icheke, designed to raise awareness and change behavior related to MCPs. However, most HIV programs worldwide do not currently address MCPs as a key driver in the spread of the virus.

Given the high prevalence of HIV and the active role the country’s government has taken in HIV prevention, Botswana made for a prime location to pilot-test seven activities that are geared toward informing youth about the dangers of MCPs. These activities were collaboratively created by ETR’s Doug Kirby and by FHI. The activities are meant to supplement an existing HIV educational program, because they focus specifically on building knowledge, values, and skills that youth need to make healthy decisions about sexual partnerships.

Pilot-testing at SSI proved to be not only beneficial for improving the MCP activities, but also a great deal of fun with the participatory lessons, discussions, and role-plays. The participants were intrigued and eager to share their newly acquired knowledge with their peers. With input from SSI’s staff, we hope to refine these innovative educational activities on MCPs to help combat the spread of HIV.

For more information, check out the links below:

Stepping Stones International

The O Icheke Campaign, Botswana (707 KB)