Zambia’s first AIDS case was reported in 1984. Unfortunately, like many other African countries, the early stages of the epidemic, was kept secret by the authorities. As this was happening, the number of HIV and AIDS infections continued to rise.
However, the dawn of the new millennium marked a change in political attitude and determination to confront the epidemic, leading to the birth of the National AIDS Council (NAC) becoming operational in 2002. The Zambian government then stepped up the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Unfortunately, the impact of AIDS had gone far beyond the household and community level leading to high mortality rates. But the government was not ready to give up. In 2005, the Zambia’s National AIDS Council called for mandatory HIV and AIDS counseling in a move to control the epidemic. This move did not go well with human rights activists leading to the government softening its stand and stating that it would encourage voluntary counseling and testing.
While all this was happening, one man was watching keenly and trying to figure out how he could help. Rev. Collins Kavuka, a counselor at World Vision’s Corridors of Hope, a Commercial Sex Worker Rehabilitation Programme looked at the HIV and AIDS prevention strategies vis-à-vis the high mortality and realized counseling had a big role to play.
As if someone read his mind, an opportunity arose for a course in Programme Management and Administration in HIV and AIDS at Malawi Institute of Management in 2006, and he was asked to attend the training with sponsorship from Regional AIDS Training Network (RATN).
“Since I already had a passion for counseling and wanted to play my part and reduce the high mortality rate in Zambia, I knew that was my chance to get the required skills in counseling,” says Kavuka, who is now an HIV and AIDS Development Facilitator at World Vision Zambia.
After attending the first training, he realized he needed to expand his technical approaches in counseling and enrolled for a Higher Diploma in counseling at Kenya Association of Professional Counselors (KAPC) based in Nairobi. “RATN has played a big role in my success and this success has helped me serve my people, says Kavuka, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Counseling Training at KAPC.
“The courses I have attended so far have enabled me to put in quality services to my organization and my clients,” says Kavuka, adding, “The trainings have capacity built me to the level where I can manage HIV and AIDS project at World Vision.”
With the increased VCT centers in Zambia manned by qualified health workers like Kavuka, there is renewed hope for Zambians to know their status and act to protect themselves and those around them from HIV and AIDS.