AIDS drama groups trained by ELDP staff take their show on the road — this group gets an audience from a wide area that includes many village headmen and chiefs, seated against the wall.
The raw material for the skits includes facts on HIV/AIDS transmission and protection, which are discussed in human rights workshops offered in every village where the ELDP has development projects. Then the players use their creativity to come up with the dramas and songs that both entertain and educate their audiences.
This audience paid close attention as the fate of a girl who was forced into prostitution unfolded. Because drama is an important part of rural life, it's also an effective way to get the word out about HIV/AIDS and to get people freely talking among themselves about this disease. Ten ELDP-trained drama groups now travel in the countryside and also train other groups.
The Lutheran bishop laments that both the church and the government "never wanted to accept that AIDS was a problem" in Malawi. By the time they did, Bvumbwe says, it had killed millions.
"It's time for the church and the ELDP to repent," the bishop claims, "and to admit, 'We stayed quiet a long time.' But now we are breaking the silence and beginning to take some vigorous action."
That includes addressing issues of women's rights, he says, and teaching men to see women as equal before God. "Only when women are empowered," he says, "can they say, 'No' to sex outside or within their family."
Topics such as HIV/AIDS protection and testing now are talked about freely at churches. And so is the need to take care of those affected — that they shouldn't be neglected but cared for by the community.
Bvumbwe wrote a handbook for pastors in the battle against HIV/AIDS as part of the doctoral work he recently completed at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. "We're compelled to do more and more and more, even though the more is so little," he says.
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