In communities across Malawi, men and women like Eliza are attending facilitated discussions using interactive toolkits developed by BRIDGE II and implemented by local partners. BRIDGE II is a five-year HIV prevention project, supported by USAID, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). As it winds down, data is being collected on the extent of the project’s reach and how it is impacting the knowledge, attitude and behavioral practices of individuals and communities. But how do we go beyond the numbers and document those successful approaches and tools and share the value of interpersonal communication and education as key to changing people’s beliefs and practices?

“Previously I was not faithful to my family. I used to have extramarital affairs. After attending Hope Kit sessions and listening and participating to the sessions, I realized that I was putting my life at stake and now I have chosen to be faithful to my family.” - Eliza Lupale, 37, married with five children. Photo credit: Edna Ndhlovu

BRIDGE II aims to reduce new HIV infections through eliminating barriers to individual action and shifting social norms. It addresses key risk factors for HIV in Malawi such as having more than one sexual partner at a time, lack of condom use, and alcohol abuse. Gender norms and inequities often lie beneath these risky behaviors, and BRIDGE II openly addresses these issues. A multi-sectoral project with a strong community focus, BRIDGE works directly through creative multi-media campaigns, transformative and participatory toolkits (like the Hope Kit, PDF), interactive radio programs, service referral and linkages, and community theater. BRIDGE also builds local capacity by providing support to community and faith-based networks to strengthen their HIV prevention programs. The goal is lasting, positive change that not only prevents new HIV infections, but also strengthens the ability of Malawi’s communities to care for and protect themselves.

Through concerted effort by dedicated staff and an engaged network of partners, these approaches and tools are showing promising signs of change, particularly in the lives of women like Eliza who have been empowered to make healthier lifestyle choices for themselves and their families. Men and women understand their HIV risk and are gaining the information, skills and motivation they need to prevent infection. People are utilizing HIV-related services and adopting safer sexual practices and couples are openly communicating about their relationship in a way they never have before. They are getting tested for HIV and keeping love within their homes. Systems and institutions are strengthened to take the lead in HIV prevention through greater coordination and thought leadership.

The tools created within BRIDGE II will soon be made available to a wider audience as a comprehensive online kit via K4Health. This toolkit can be used by others to facilitate open communication about behavior change to curb HIV. Click here for more information on BRIDGE II and please check back at the end of the year to find more information on the e-Toolkit!