Burundi: Radio Ivyizigiro brings hope to people living with HIV

When Aline was first diagnosed with HIV, she was ashamed and frightened. Now she provides support and advice to others and takes part in a radio show for people living with HIV that encourages people to talk openly about the virus.

Radio Ivyizigiro means Radio Hope – and hope is exactly what it provided for Aline when she was first diagnosed with HIV.

‘I was feeling weak but the programme gave me lots of information, which increased my knowledge and made me stronger,’ said the mother of three.

‘I heard that I was not the only one to have it; it was important to have that testimony. When you listen a lot, you lose your worries.’

Banishing stigma

Radio Ivyizigiro is run by ACT member Christian Aid’s partner, the World Outreach Initiative (WOI).

It broacasts HIV information, including advice on how to care for people with the condition, as well as information about counselling and advocacy programmes.

The radio station has the fourth highest listener figures in Burundi, reaching between 5 million and 7 million people.

‘Before the programme there was lots of stigma,’ Aline recalls. ‘People would point their finger but that has been reduced.

‘Now we have found a voice and we can talk openly. People call in live and we reply with advice.

‘I think this programme is very good – it helps HIV-positive people to understand that hiding is not the solution and that it can be normal to live with HIV.’

Support for HIV-positive people

WOI is part of the HUMURA Consortium, which brings together four religious partners working on HIV.

They implement health and HIV programmes, and conduct advocacy and lobbying for the rights of HIV positive people.

WOI also organises HIV tests and provides support for HIV-positive people, such as helping them set up small businesses.

In addition, WOI runs clinics and health centres supplying basic medicines and lab materials not provided by the Government of Burundi.

They also organise debates in schools and places frequented by young people.

The power of radio

‘The impact of speaking on the radio is very strong,’ explains Patrick Dushime of WOI. ‘Someone many kilometres away from Bujumbura, who can’t talk about it in church or take part in a meeting, can still hear.

‘People can listen in a secret way if they need to. Almost everyone has radios or phones, even the very poor.’

When they reported on a shortage of lab materials needed for HIV testing, the government put in place a commission to oversee supplies and there are now fewer shortages.

On another occasion, a Pentecostal leader featured on the programme said AIDS was a punishment. ‘But he’s now changed his mind, to the extent that he takes part in our counselling programmes,’ says Dushime.

For Aline, the key to overcoming stigma and spreading a message of hope is to keep talking: ‘There is a Burundian proverb that says, “If you want to cure an illness, you have to talk about it.”

‘If one day there is a cure, we will be the first to have it because our situation is known.’