The HIV infection rate has remained relatively constant in South Africa for some 30 years, and recently has shown signs of increasing in the Sisonke District. Virtually everyone in the country now knows that HIV is transmitted sexually, but improved knowledge has not led to changed behaviour because attitudes and beliefs have not changed. People continue to hold dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs regarding HIV because of cultural norms. Prevention of infection requires that these norms be challenged and changed.
The Stepping Stones program is designed to deal with these issues. Stepping Stones is a workshop series designed as a tool to help promote sexual health, improve psychological well-being, and prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The workshops address questions of gender equality, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, gender violence, communication, and relationship skills. In doing so, they recognize that our sexual lives are embedded in a broader context of our relationships with our partners, families, and the community or society in which we live. These strongly influence how we act, the possibilities open to us, and our ability to make safe and healthy choices.
Edzimkulu trained 120 facilitators who worked in pairs conducting ten-session Stepping Stones groups throughout the district. Groups were facilitated in more than 40 villages, and thousands of people participated. The program was stopped due to lack of funding, but groups are still facilitated on the basis of need from time to time.