ACHAP takes SMC to rural Botswana
Driving along the muddy and wet roads for long distances are just part of the Francistown SMC team’s daily routine. The team comprised of Ofentse Seosenyeng, an Assistant Programme officer who mobilises for Safe Male Circumcision (SMC), along Nametsagang Moendambele, a driver and Iponeng Tiro-Kebonye who is a HIV Testing and SMC Counsellor. They are determined to take SMC services to the hard to reach areas.
The team recently with the Communications Officer Lorraine Modise recently visited Kutamogore, a small village located in the Northeast of Botswana with a small population. Entering the village one is greeted by scattered mud built huts, untarred wet roads from the recent downpours. Kutamogore has a small clinic and people have little access to hospital care.
ACHAP trains community volunteers, mobilisers’ health care providers and health officers like Seosenyeng, Moendambele and Tiro-Kebonye to provide HIV testing, counselling services to the entire nation including hard-to-reach vulnerable communities such as those of Kutamogore. "Before I was trained, I never saw the importance of assisting people to know about Safe Male Circumcision and their HIV status, I’m grateful to ACHAP for teaching me how to carry out HIV testing and counselling services in our communities,” noted Tiro-Kebonye. The team has provided services to a lot of men and are motivated to do more. They test clients and ensure that they take up SMC. HIV positive clients identified are allowed to take up the service if they so wish and are healthy enough. The team provides services that help prevent HIV/AIDS.
Seosenyeng is happy with his hard work, loves his job and is inspired to do more for his community. Moendambele has developed a passion for mobilising men to take up services through transporting clients and officers to various places. She talks to all men about the benefits of Safe Male Circumcision “I have driven to different communities and I now know everything about Safe Male Circumcision, from its benefits to its challenges”, said Moendambele. “I enjoy seeing young men being transformed from being against SMC to becoming mobilisers, this proves that men are starting to comprehend SMC and its benefits” she said.
The team proved that their determination was not just a dream but a reality. As they got into the village of Kutamogore, they saw 5 young men just standing along the roadside chatting, they stopped the car right next to the young men and asked them if they knew anything about circumcision. “Yes we know, yes we know” one of the young men responded. The team got out of the car and asked the young men if they have been safely circumcised and they all responded in the negative! “We will circumcise when we find time” one of the boys replied. Seosenyeng saw this as an opportunity to offer the young men a lift to the clinic so that they can go for counselling and circumcise right away. The young men were convinced, and they bravely went to the clinic with the team and got circumcised.
They were all satisfied with the service rendered and explained that the pain they felt was bearable and that they will encourage their peers to circumcise. They all had smiles on their faces and laughed about how they thought the pain was severe. Tiro-Kebonye then handed them SMC branded T-shirts as a token of appreciation and to motivate other men to circumcise.
As a result of providing SMC services, the team has built relationships with the traditional leaders in the area such as Dikgosi (Chiefs). Some Dikgosi who were said to be anti-circumcision are now working to provide additional health information and resources for their communities regarding the programme. They help encourage men in their communities to circumcise.
"It has not been easy at all, but I am happy to reach as many people as I can to provide services which they could not have received considering the distance they have to cover before reaching health facilities," said Seosenyeng. "It is also important to know that many other communities are now calling us to provide SMC services in their villages which is a welcome development. Some calling us to render the service are those conservative communities who were previously against the programme." Seosenyeng posited.