Men as champions for young women’s health

April 1, 2017 was special to customers of bars around Lusaka when they first received an invitation that invoked memories of a traditional learning system for African men – the Insaka.

The Insaka in rural settings is a thatched roof open building used as a platform for learning and discussing topics of significance to life. For DREAMS Innovation Challenge grantee Afya Mzuri, the Insaka concept presents an opportunity to bring men together in traditional fashion to talk about a topic not commonly discussed: male involvement in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV prevention for adolescent girls and young women. The project also offers health services on site, such as HIV testing and counseling.
Men in Lusaka meet to discuss male involvement in sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention

Men recruited from popular bars in Lusaka are brought into Insaka to discuss: “What influences girls aged between 15-24 years to go after older men? Why do men go after these young girls? What role should a man play to desist from the pressure the girls put on the men?”

A behavior change communication specialist leads each session. Staff members emphasize the need for men coming to the Insaka to take steps to reduce the spread of HIV infections; access health services such as couples counseling, HIV testing, and voluntary medical male circumcision; and continue learning from other men through sharing real life experiences that can yield positive attitudes.

As of May 14, 2017, most of the 540 men who had attended at least one of the 18 weekly sessions agreed to set the pace for positive change.
Men in Lusaka meet to discuss male involvement in sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention

The Insaka is proving effective in bringing bar customers into discussions around SRH and HIV. Those who complete five sessions are recognized as champions of change in the communities where Afya Mzuri has started conducting mobile Insaka. Through 292 outreach sessions in 30 bars, outreach workers have had one-on-one discussions with 1,439 men to inform and invite them to an Insaka, and it is anticipated that many will attend future sessions throughout the course of the two-year project.

JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., is the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Funds manager and in that role supports 46 DREAMS-IC winners selected to execute cutting-edge programs across the 10 countries. JSI provides overall program support for DREAMS–IC and technical assistance to implementing partners includes strengthening partners’ institutional capacity to manage awards in compliance with U.S. Government regulations and supporting them in reaching the DREAMS–IC goal to reduce the incidence of HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

By Reford Mihova, DREAMS Innovation Challenge M&E Manager, JSI Zambia