Self-stigma is a critical but often forgotten aspect of living with HIV. It can lead to feelings of shame, worthlessness and blame. Not only does this impact a person's ability to live positively, it also limits quality of life and access to healthcare.
Trócaire has developed an innovative way to tackle this problem. Working with survivors of gender-based violence and women living with HIV in Zimbabwe, our programme uses Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR) to tackle self-stigma. This leads to improved mental health, well-being and quality of life for the women.
IBSR is an approach to help people reduce stress through self-inquiry. It puts the dignity and well-being of people living with HIV at the centre.
Our programme is the first time this approach has been applied to HIV and gender-based violence in a developing country.
Our programme was shortlisted for the 2018 Bond Innovation Award, held in February. The Bond Innovation Award showcases organisations, coalitions or initiatives taking inventive approaches to complex challenges.
Working in peer-support groups, people accessing our programme use IBSR approaches to tackle self-stigma issues.
Our programme was developed with the community, by the community and for the community. It has been adapted continually over the last five years.
Among the local partners we have worked with is the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+), CONNECT (the Zimbabwe Institute for Systemic Therapy) and the Work for Change.
Traditional approaches to peer-support groups, while useful in providing safe spaces and helping people connect, are often unstructured and sometimes reinforce negative beliefs and stories of victimisation.
The IBSR programme delivers a unique approach to supporting people to tackle self-stigma in a low-income setting.
It gives individuals the power to address stigma themselves through an effective and sustainable peer-to-peer approach.
One IBSR programme participant explained:
“…in Zimbabwe, if you want to have counselling, that’s quite expensive. Most of the people in this community, they don’t receive a wage. They can’t afford to pay for the counselling or the psychological support or emotional support they need. But IBSR is cheap and it works. Once equipped with the tool, this is something we can do on your own…”