Performing acts of kindness to prevent HIV/AIDS in Zambia

This post was contributed by The Salvation World Service Office.

The Bible tells us that Jesus traveled from place to place performing miracles; many of them instantly healing the hopelessly ill – and He gave authority to His disciples to do the same.

In our own time, in the small Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi, a crowd gathers to watch a performance being put on by a group of young strangers.  The drama tells the story of a husband who has an affair; and of his wife, who also has an affair in retaliation.  Then, one of the pair is found to be HIV-positive and the couple realizes that they can’t be sure who acquired the infection first.

The message that the performing youth troupe hopes to put across to their peers is that remaining faithful and abstaining from having multiple concurrent partners, decreases the risk of acquiring HIV.

During the performance, Pastor Kasalwe Cornelius Timothy from the Gospel Mission Church in Pamodzi, Ndola talked to members of the audience discussing HIV and encouraging them to go for HIV-related services at a health facility.

During the performance, Pastor Kasalwe Cornelius Timothy from the Gospel Mission Church in Pamodzi, Ndola talks to members of the audience, discussing HIV and encouraging them to go for HIV-related services at a health facility.

“What the Lord has put upon my heart is not only to preach the Word of God, but also to meet the social needs of the people, such as health, helping them reach out and access health facilities,” he said.

The performance is also a good dramatization of the shift in the approach of the Salvation Army in working to prevent HIV and AIDS.  In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the people we identified often were already in advanced stages of the disease, and many died in their homes in pain.  Our focus tended to be on pain management and spiritual comfort.  Now, we provide those same services, and we also vigorously promote screening and early detection, which in turn means that many infected people are discovering their illness sooner.  We ensure they have access to, and properly take, anti-retroviral medications.  We also provide counseling so they can live long productive and healthy lives.

And this approach is working.

In a market in the town Kapiri Mposhi, a youth drama group performs a skit about multiple concurrent partnerships between a husband and wife. The performance depicts a husband who has an affair, and his wife, who also has an affair in retaliation. Then, one of the pair is subsequently found to be HIV-positive. The message to the audience is about the increased risk of acquiring HIV through having multiple partners, and the importance of being faithful.

According to the latest United Nations annual report, the global rate of HIV infection and the number of AIDS-related deaths have been dramatically reduced, thanks to expanding access to treatment. By the end of 2012, 9.7 million people in developing countries had access to AIDS drugs, an increase of nearly 20 percent in a year.  The report also said that since 2001 there has been a 52 percent drop in annual new HIV infections among children and a 33 percent reduction in newly infected adults and children combined.

The Salvation Army has been a vital member in the fight against HIV and AIDS since the early 1980s.

Most recently, as a partner to the Zambia HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership (ZPCT II), the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) has supported community-level outreach activities.  Trained leaders from local faith-based organizations (FBOs) encourage people to go for HIV-related services, including counseling and testing (CT), prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and male circumcision (MC) at health facilities in the Ndola District of the Copperbelt Province.

FBOs are also encouraged to speak to their congregations about HIV; facilitate mobile CT and MC awareness-raising days with support from government health workers; and coordinate events and share experiences in reaching the faith community.

By training and mobilizing local faith leaders, who are in turn supported by Salvation Army ZPCT II staff, the way is paved for sustainable change.

Timothy said, “It has brought networking of churches and more people are able to go to health centers and receive medication needed. To me, it has been a privilege to work with them and I am ready to continue in partnership with them.”

The lesson for us all is that every miracle is not dramatic and instantaneous.  Some take decades of hard work for hard-won victories – but they are miracles just the same.


Lieutenant Colonel Joan Canning is the Executive Director of The Salvation Army   World Service Office (SAWSO). SAWSO’s vision is to “create a world where people live in safe and sustainable communities in which differences are respected, basic needs are met, and all enjoy opportunities to learn, work, and worship in freedom.” Learn more at miracles just the same.