Pilot Project Study for the Integration of HIV related Activities into the Specific Cultural Context of the Kwango Region in the DR Congo

The objective of this project is to apply an anthropologic research methodology to gain an in-depth understanding of the perceptions and interpretations of the phenomenon HIV by the local population; an understanding of gender relations and their consequences for the spread of HIV as well as for possibilities of protection; development of a terminology which is adapted to each zone of intervention; integration of informative messages about HIV and about the possibilities of protection against its transmission (e.g. into initiation rituals); as well as mutual and systematic information leading to collaboration between protagonists of the different parallel health systems – autochthonous and Western.

Health Focus has initiated an innovative project with the support of Caritas to integrate HIV-related activities into the specific cultural context of one district in the DRC. Our hypothesis is that it is possible to explain what an infection with HIV is and how people can protect themselves from infection within the paradigm of a localised approach to health, and that this will make HIV and AIDS prevention and care programmes more effective.
The study aims at revealing how local populations perceive and interpret what from a Western medical view is considered an infection or the symptom of a disease and learning about the meaning of the metaphors which are used in communities in order to engage in a serious dialogue with them. Protagonists of both medical paradigms (the (North-) Western one and a local one) need to be trained in order to understand the need for the bridge, to recognize the incompleteness of both paradigms for healing and their specific cultural determination, and hence the need to use both in a complementary way. That might lead to health approaches which combine the strengths of each of the paradigms and make the struggle against HIV more effective.

• Providing an international expert;
• Realisation of the preparatory study in 5 health zones in the Kwango district by interviewing traditional healers;
• Procurement and provision of project equipment;
• Project administration, monitoring and supervision;
• Reporting to the client.