eMPathy Trust, Southern Africa is involved in developing appropriate teaching materials, teaching methods and support for those who work at the coalface of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Our aim is to reach young people who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This encompasses young people who have the disease themselves, live with people who do or are at high risk of contracting the virus. The name given to our trust, eMPathy reflects our commitment to draw on two broad fields, the natural sciences and the human/social sciences, in order to offer a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS in the region. The ‘MP’ in our name refers to macrophages and pathology, terms that relate to the immune system and how it works to protect people from disease and ill health. The word empathy itself acknowledges the emotional, social, and cultural effects of the virus. We need to understand the biological facts about HIV/AIDs in order to teach young people about how to protect themselves from HIV and also how to live with it. At the same time we need to foster empathy if we are to respond effectively to the stigma, loneliness and negative effects that accompany HIV/AIDS.
How we began
The Trust was initiated by Professor Siamon Gordon of the Department of Pathology at Oxford University. Siamon has spent many years in the field of Immunology, as a teacher and researcher. His special interest is understanding the microbiology of the immune system. He thought it would be an excellent idea to write a book for young people that would explain the biological facts about HIV/AIDS and help counter the myths surrounding the virus. Following a needs assessment in South Africa, Siamon collaborated with the scientist and children’s science writer Professor Fran Balkwill of Barts and the London School of Medicine, illustrator Mic Rolph and publisher John Inglis of Cold Spring Harbour Press to produce Staying Alive Fighting HIV/AIDS. The book was field tested extensively with teachers, students, AIDS activists, people living with HIV/AIDS and health workers. The book was rewritten and re-titled, You, Me & HIV in 2005. The revised version contains the biological material of the first book but also emphasises the personal and social skills that are needed to help young people cope with the presence of HIV/AIDS in their lives.
At the request of teachers, an educator’s guide, a life size anatomical body map and two posters were produced to accompany the students’ book. The guide contains a wide selection of activities. It uses participatory teaching methods that encourage students to engage imaginatively with the content across the school curriculum. An in-service training programme accompanies the resources. The programme has been run in many of the provinces within South Africa.
eMPathy Trust has extended its services to include peer educators, home based carers and people working in the field of paediatric HIV/AIDS as well as schools. Our approach lends itself to those who are committed to educating, empowering and supporting young people and families who are affected by HIV/AIDS. We emphasise the importance of building up strong support networks in communities. For more information about our training and resources please see Media/Resources.