Gender and HIV in Angola
Join soldiers from the Angolan army and women from the community beside the barracks, discovering how to negotiate safer sex, challenge violence and improve communication in their relationships. This video follows an ACORD project in Angola and was produced by media co-op.
The documentary was awarded a Gold Plaque during the INTERCOM competition of the at the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival.
If you don't want to stream the video you can download an mp4 file from the link below. Be aware that the file is low resolution with a small frame size (320 by 180), but it is still a large download at 40 MB. This will take around four hours with a 56kb modem, 13 minutes with a 1024kbps connection and 1 min 20 s with 10 mbps broadband. If you have a slow and unreliable connection we suggest you use download manager software.
Condom commandos mp4 file, 40 MB: english
ACORD helped establish the HIV/AIDS 'Nucleus' of the Southern Region of the Armed Forces of Angola in 2001 and has supported its work since. The purpose of the Nucleus team is to undertake HIV/AIDS awareness raising and prevention activities within the armed forces. It is situated within the 21st Brigade, one of the largest and most active army units in the country with 5000 soldiers.
In 2004-5 ACORD joined the nucleus in carrying out training sessions using the Stepping Stones methodology. Stepping Stones is a participatory, community-centred approach to addressing gender and HIV. It involves bringing men and women in the community together to engage in a shared discussion of many aspects of our lives and analysis of why we behave in the ways we do and what influences the views we hold. Based on the assumption that just giving people information is not enough to change the behaviour of a lifetime, Stepping Stones works with groups over several months, undertaking a 'journey' to reach a point where people can see possibilities for change, both as individuals and as a community, and want to make those changes.
The Stepping Stones training proved very effective in the army environment. Among both men and women the training led to dramatic falls in alcoholism and unprotected sex with multiple partners. Conversely there has also been increased awareness of condoms and more respectful behaviour towards women. Admittedly the training was not a magic bullet to solve all problems. There were still remaining levels of stigma around HIV and men remained firmly in control of decision making in households. However many of the participating soldiers reported significant changes in their life and referred to themselves as HIV/AIDS activists or “guerrilheiros” with a duty to now help others protect themselves against HIV and in other ways.
My relationship with my family and my wife has been transformed. I used to behave completely irresponsibly and spend all my money on women and drink. Now, I bring my salary home and the money is shared to buy food and provide for the needs of all the family. I have stopped sleeping around and I am faithful to my wife as I do not want to put either of us at risk of catching and spreading the virus.
Soldier, 21st Military Brigade, Angola, age 26 years
For me the greatest thing I gained from Stepping Stones was that it helped me control my alcohol problem. I used to get drunk all the time and when I was drunk I would not be able to control my thoughts or actions and I would sleep around with every woman in sight and get violent as well. I realised that this behaviour was not only putting me, but also others, at risk and I have now stopped drinking the way I used to.
Soldier, 21st Military Brigade, Angola, age 28 years
The training is like cultivating a field. You look after it well and it will always be there for future generations to draw benefit from.
Army officer, 21st Military Brigade, Angola, age 32 years
Following the initial project, ACORD expanded its use of Stepping Stones in work with UNITA fighters as part of a government funded programme aimed at promoting the economic and social re-integration of demobilised soldiers following the peace agreements. ACORD’s experience of working on HIV/AIDS and gender in Angola has demonstrated that the Stepping Stones methodology can be very effective in a post-conflict situation, helping people to overcome the brutalising effects of war and sew together divided communities, bridging the gap between the military and civilian community.