Mozambique: In Mozambique, Radio Program Promotes HIV Awareness among Military and Surrounding Community (December 2009)


The United States Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes the global threat HIV/AIDS poses to U.S. national security - as well as that of the rest of the world - and is combating it through the efforts of the DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP) and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP).

DHAPP was established in 2001 to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and India to work with foreign militaries to decrease the impact of the disease. The program oversees the contributions to the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) of a range of DoD organizations, which fall under the various regional military commands, as well as specialized DoD institutions whose primary mission falls within the continental United States.

It now has implemented programs in 75 nations across Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

To provide for the unique needs of the military population, DoD hires partner country nationals to facilitate interactions between the DHAPP technical experts located at its headquarters at the Naval Health Research Center and the partner country military HIV/ AIDS program leaders. These country nationals provide invaluable support because they are most familiar with the cultural and political backdrop of their individual nations and therefore provide a unique perspective and dedication to the programs.

One such individual is Antonio Langa, a Mozambican national working for DoD. He is the main point of contact for DoD and PEPFAR activities directed to the Mozambican military - coordinating frequently with the Mozambican minister of defense, the chief of the army and the director of national military health. His tasks range from discussing annual plans with the Mozambican military, to overseeing the training of military doctors and nurses, to implementing military prevalence and behavioral studies.

"I would describe my role as one of an actor in an action/thriller movie. I'm the beginning and end of whatever happens in benefit of the Mozambican military. If I don't fight for money to fund activities, then the program does not exist," Langa says.

One program that Langa has worked tirelessly to support is the Mozambique Armed Forces Local Radio Station Broadcast. The radio program informs soldiers about all aspects related to HIV/AIDS, such as prevention and risk reduction (male circumcision, condom use, partner reduction), diagnosis (counseling and testing), care (opportunistic infections, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases), and treatment (prevention of mother-to-child transmission, prevention with positives, anti-retroviral therapy). It includes live discussions with doctors and other relevant people with a telephone number that listeners can call to ask questions on the air.

"The idea for the radio program was inspired by the movie 'Good Morning Vietnam,' and I just used the same approach and converted it to focus on health issues, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS," Langa says. According to Langa, the project presented logistical challenges, but because the Mozambican military took ownership of the station, it became a success.

"The Mozambican military accepted the challenge and provided the space to install the station. They also identified young soldiers to be trained and operate the radio equipment. DoD brought in a team to train the Mozambicans on operating a military radio station - from gathering and processing information, to broadcasting, to monitoring and evaluation," Langa says. "We found great acceptance of the project since it is operated by the Mozambican military themselves."

The initial idea was to use a closed circuit radio - a DJ station and speakers installed in selected areas of the military base - but ultimately the project ended up as an FM radio station covering a much wider area around the military base, therefore reaching more people. Because the radio program also broadcasts to non-military areas, it covers other public health issues as well.

"The surrounding community benefits from the radio program because they are able to discuss health issues of interest to them," Langa says.

Both programs receive support from PEPFAR, as well funding from the Army and other U.S. federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health.

Additional information about DoD-supported efforts to combat global AIDS is available online at: www.health.mil/Content/docs/MHS_Profiles_AIDS.pdf.

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