WUSC Blog: Let’s finish the job! Day five at the 20th International AIDS Conference

Melbourne Australia

“Ending AIDS is an opportunity for this generation. We should not miss this opportunity”

-          Michel Sidibe, Executive Director – UNAIDS, Monday July 21st, 2014 –  International AIDS Conference

I love this quote from Michel. It is an opportunity. It’s the age old question – we have the tools – we have treatment, we’ve proven that treatment helps people live longer and it also plays a key role in prevention. So what on earth is impeding the scale up? Are we doing the best we can? Will our children’s children ask us why we didn’t take this opportunity and run to the finish line? If you agree with Michel and I that this an opportunity (and not a challenge) – what is your part in ending AIDS? Are you doing the best YOU can?

Yesterday, I presented my poster in the Exhibition area of the conference. I was permitted to put up my poster from 09:00 – 18:00 hours throughout the day on Thursday. Then, from 12:30 – 14:30, which was the time set for poster discussion, I was asked to stand next to my poster to discuss it with delegates.

I knew that I would have to compete with other exhibitionists (including pharma companies who were giving away cappuccinos and free t-shirts), so I brought 30 lunch bars from Botswana and put them in a home-made Botswana basket, dressed up in my favorite suit and ‘confident shoes’ and I stood next to my poster.

Luckily, I quickly remembered how much I loved the topic of my poster, so it was an easy two hours. The purpose of my poster (click here) was to share the successes and lessons learned from WUSC’s intervention to provide management support and OD support to the 54 Civil Society Organizations funded under Botswana’s BNAPS project. WUSC supported the CSOs over 9 months through a unique on-demand approach to technical assistance which used the high impact methodology of on-site coaching and targeted NGO management training.

Key successes of the project include the following:

  • Organizations learned how to convert needs into action plans and requests for support
  • Stronger organizations who learned quickly became models/mentors to replicate learnings within their districts and at trainings
  • Programmatic leaders in Botswana’s Civil Society became strategic leaders and thinkers

Lessons learned include the following:

  • Assessments can be change agents – increasing awareness of strengths and weaknesses through agreed minimum standards
  • A staff focused (bottom-up) approach, combined with deliberate developments in structures and systems (top-down) with an emphasis on relationships (side-to-side) and building one’s community/enabling environment can result in more sustainable organizations
  • Meeting people where they are and involving them in the process of identifying their needs and the type of support they desire enhances ownership of both process and product

Throughout the course of my poster, I spoke with representatives from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, USAID, Abbott Industries, the International AIDS Society and many other organizations and countries. People asked me to share tools and also shared their own challenges in building capacity. And, it got me thinking – challenge or opportunity? This morning, as I reviewed my notes, I realized – “challenge” invites us to make excuses, whereas “opportunity” forces us to look for solutions. Thank you to Michel Sidibe for this opportunity to rethink and re-tool my own approach.

Those who came before us have given us tools like ARVs and years of studies have proven that these tools work for treatment and even have lovely “unintended consequence” of assisting us with prevention. The end of AIDS is an opportunity for all of us. Let’s finish the job.

Thanks again to WUSC and WUSC Botswana for this opportunity to share our results with the international community and for the International AIDS Society for letting us share our work on a global stage. 


Melissa with Ed Petit from Botswana Baylor Children's Hospital


About the writer: Melissa Godwaldt works for WUSC in Botswana on the Maatla Project (Civil Society Strengthening in organizational development and technical programming for improved HIV outcomes). Melissa presented a poster at the conference on Thursday afternoon, where she shared successes and lessons learned from a recent civil society strengthening project that WUSC managed in during 2013.

For more information about the conference visit: http://www.aids2014.org/.

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