UNICEF Cote d'Ivoire wanted to document stories of health workers working with women with HIV/AIDS in remote communites.
Health Care Hero
Community Health Worker, Wandjo Kone, goes house to house visiting different women in the village. The village paths had turned to mud during the season of rains, but Wandjo was determined to go to all the homes on her list to ensure that the pregnant and HIV positive women in her care would have healthy babies.
“We noticed a few problems in the community concerning adolescents and pregnant women, who experience problems such as early pregnancy. There are women who don’t keep their appointments at health centres. Young men change their partners when they can and HIV is a problem” Wandjo explained. “All these problems pushed me to become a Community Health Worker and find solutions to them.”
Empowering Women through Community Health
Salimata * was 14 years old when she started seeing the man that she would lose her virginity to.
“I didn’t know about condoms and how they can be used to protect yourself,” said Salimata. “It’s only now that I understand that when you have a relationship with a man you need to protect yourself.”
When she was 17 years old, Salimata became pregnant and walked to the nearby health center for a check-up. In Cote d’Ivoire, pregnant women automatically have an HIV test when they come into a health center, and this was how Salimata discovered that she was HIV-positive.
“When I went to the hospital, and I found out that I was positive I thought it was finished for me! I no longer had any taste for life, because I thought I would die or my child would die,” she said.
Many girls in Cote d’Ivoire find themselves in the same situation at Salimata, who dropped out of school at 16. Barriers to education, and the pressure on families to keep girls at home so they can do household tasks like fetching water, make it difficult for girls to understand sex and how contraception works.
Educating Men to Take Responsibility
Community health workers are now trying to focus on educating men as well as women on HIV, and explain to couples how they can manage HIV together if one or both of them have it.
“During our work that we do in the community,” said Community Health Worker, Wandjo Kone, “we’ve noticed that it’s more difficult to convince men to go and take the test. You can explain it maybe because of their ego, or just simply because they are afraid to have results that may be positive. It may be that women because they want to protect their babies, are more willing to go and get tested.”