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Document Abstract
Published: 2013

The role of community conversations in facilitating local HIV competence: case study from rural Zimbabwe

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This journal article examines the potential of using community conversations to strengthen positive responses to HIV in resource-poor environments. Guided by a facilitator, community members collectively identify local strengths and challenges and brainstorm potential strategies for solving local problems. Researchers conducted a series of such community conversations in Zimbabwe to promote critical thinking and action planning in response to HIV/AIDS and to test the strategy using the concept of community-level HIV/AIDS competence as a lens for analysis. The study found that community conversations hold great potential to help communities recognise their potential strengths and capacities for responding more effectively to HIV, but contextual factors, such as availability of treatment, poverty, poor harvests, and political instability, can help or hinder communities' response plans.

Researchers conducted 18 community conversations (CCs) in two locations, with 6 groups participating in 3 conversations each. During the sessions, participants were asked to "reflect on how they were responding to the challenges of HIV, both as individuals and in community groups, and to think of ways to better support openness about HIV, kindness towards people living with HIV and greater community uptake of HIV prevention and treatment."

The article concludes that "findings suggest that conversations may create social space for people to reflect on the possibility of more effective responses to HIV, but a host of other factors will intervene in shaping whether such reflection leads to concrete behaviour change." However, despite these challenges, the researchers "remain confident that our conversations were successful in the modest aims which we set them - to create spaces in which people might 'break the silence', think critically about obstacles to effective responses and brainstorm action plans. Such dialogue is a vital, if not a sufficient, precondition for health-enhancing behaviour change."

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