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Give stigma the index finger

Khanyisile Mlotsa and Thabsile Nzima listen back to their practice interview during the oral testimony workshop in Swaziland - Siobhan Warrington | Panos London

Khanyisile Mlotsa and Thabsile Nzima listen back to their practice interview during the oral testimony workshop in Swaziland - Siobhan Warrington | Panos London

Panos London, together with other Panos network offices is working in partnership with national networks of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), to build on the findings of the the people living with HIV (PLHIV) Stigma Index in Swaziland, Ethiopia and Mozambique with oral testimony and media work. The project is a three-year initiative which started in April 2011.

The Stigma Index is a tool to measure stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV. It follows the GIPA (Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV and AIDS) principle in that it is driven by PLHIV and their networks. In each country a team of PLHIV is trained to use the Stigma Index questionnaire to interview large numbers of PLHIV about their experiences of HIV stigma.

Oral testimony

Following the roll-out of the Stigma Index in each of the three countries, Panos London is training a smaller group of the Stigma Index interviewers in oral testimony interviewing skills. Oral testimony interviewing is open-ended, in-depth, and is audio recorded; it will provide a different kind of evidence – detailed, individual, first-person accounts – to the Stigma Index. Following the training Panos London mentors and supports the national partners to coordinate and evaluate oral testimony work in each country. The resulting testimonies will be used to support advocacy work to reduce HIV stigma in each country.


The five-day oral testimony workshop took place in August 2011 in Swaziland. Siobhan Warrington, our Senior Advisor for Voice, facilitated the workhop with the support of the project partners. Happiness Mkhatshwa, a consultant with FLAS (Family Life Association, Swaziland) and Lindiwe Mondy Simelane of SWANNEPHA (Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS) helped with facilitation and logistics.

There were a total of 11 workshop participants; nine women and two men, all PLHIV who had also worked as interviewers for the PLHIV Stigma Index in Swaziland. During the five days they developed their questioning skills for open-ended interviews, discussed interview relationships and ethics, got to grips with using digital voice recorders, and recorded and transcribed a one-hour oral testimony interview. Further training and mentoring for interviewers included: a midway review workshop, one-to-one support over the phone and in person, and an end of collection meeeting.

Between September and November 2011, the interviewers recorded and transcribed a total of 44 in-depth interviews with women and men living with HIV in Swaziland.

All transcripts have been typed and a small number have been translated into English. A reading committee made up of representatives from all partners (IPPF, Panos London, FLAS, and SWANNEHPA) is now involved in “getting to know” this extensive collection of oral testimonies, before starting work on planning and developing testimony-based outputs or activities for effective engagement with public and policy audiences.

Read more about the Swaziland project: Understanding HIV Stigma in Swaziland


Workshop participants in Ethiopia discussing the Rivers of Life exercise - Clodagh Miskelly | Panos London

The national project partner in Ethiopia is NEP+ (the Network of networks of Ethiopian Positives).

The oral testimony workshop in Ethiopia took place in February 2012. Clodagh Miskelly, our Senior Advisor for ICT, facilitated the workhop with the support of two project coordinators from NEP+.

There were a total of 12 participants – six men and six women – who came from eight regions across Ethiopia. Most had not met before, though they had all been interviewers for the PLHIV Stigma Index in Ethiopia, and were members of associatins with the NEP+ regional networks.

So far, 36 testimonies have been recorded and transcribed, and the interviewers have come together once since the workshop for a midway review meeting. Typing of the hand-written transcripts, and translation of some into English, is now underway.

Next steps


The PLHIV Stigma Index is currently under way in Mozambique and once the quantitative data has been collect and analysed the oral testimony workshop will take place Mozambique in February 2013.


The Panos Global AIDS Programme (GAP) together with Panos Eastern Africa and Panos Southern Africa is working with national partners to set up training and fellowship programmes for national journalists to produce improved and increased print coverage on HIV stigma. The media work will be informed by the experience and outcomes of the oral testimony work in each country. The first media workshop will take place in Swaziland in May 2012.