Exmouth's Julie helps fight against AIDS in Africa
PUBLISHED: 12:30 05 December 2016
An Exmouth woman has spent three months in Africa, helping to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Julie Scullion, 23, went to Samfya in Zambia with the government-funded International Citizen Service programme, as part of a team working to improve knowledge and understanding of sexual health to help combat sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV. There were 20,000 AIDS-related deaths in Zambia last year.
Julie said: “The biggest challenge in Zambia wasn’t adjusting to the food, or the heat or the basic living conditions. The biggest challenge was getting the whole community involved.
“Samfya is a rural community and it’s really hard to access sexual health information due to a lack of health facilities and cultural taboos surrounding sex.
“We spent a lot of our time planning and facilitating sessions in which we taught communities what HIV/AIDS is, how it is transmitted in order to dispel myths, how HIV affects an individual’s health, how to protect yourself from HIV, and how to live a happy, healthy HIV-positive life.
“At the beginning, you would find that you would only have a small number of people attending some of your sessions.
“However, we overcame this by not being disheartened and persisting with our sessions, making sure to arrive at the same time every week.
“The community really appreciated our commitment, and began to mobilise their own communities so that the number of people attending our sessions grew over time.”
Having now returned, Julie also wants to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS in the UK.
“So many associate HIV/AIDS with developing countries, and forget that it exists at home too.
“Having HIV/AIDS can really impact a person’s confidence and mental health, so it’s important to raise awareness and promote positive messages about living with HIV.”