This article was published by The Eastern African Magazine, early this year.


There is a widely held notion that professional group in fighting AIDS do not live to what they say and teach. That, a double standard syndrome is rife among them, and thus, they succumb easily to be attacked by the virus that they professionally are out to fight. I do not have statistics to back up that claim but the reality testifies this held belief. If this is true, and I think it is, we have to face this challenge otherwise we are at a danger of loosing valuable soldiers in the midst of this raging battle with AIDS.

We need serious, committed and model professionals and leaders. We do not need blind and opportunists' professionals and leaders who depend on HIV/AIDS as an income-generating project.

The obvious challenge to professionals ( doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians, religious leaders, and so forth) is not that they should not practice acts that expose them to the virus. The challenge to them, I think is twofold in nature and scope. First, they should resort to inclusive approach, honestly unfolding stories that expose their own vulnerabilities to AIDS. They should or (we should) not only show how corrupt is the human nature but also pose the complexities they themselves face in not being able to correct that nature. To that point, all prescriptions they give namely change of behavior, use of comdoms,HIV screening, pre-marital testing and others, are not solving the corruptness of human nature but shielding it against temporal danger.

Secondly, professionals are challenged to admit their inadequacy to explain mysteries, complexities and many unanswered questions surrounding this pandemic. It seems there has been too much “professionalism” coupled with abstractness in explaining the nature and scope of this disease. Little room has been left by these professionals that they do not posses all knowledge about the disease and hence, they should be part of learners and listeners.

The problem of AIDS is multidimensional so much so that it becomes very elusive in being dealt with at the level of social religion and economical levels. The problem is even more aggravated by the elusiveness of the VIRUS itself, which makes it very difficult to combat. It is this complicated situation, which calls for a complicated mind and zeal for innovations.

We are reminding ourselves again and again to be more available in our one and only laboratory- LISTENING. It is from listening properly that we will be able to hear even the unspoken worlds and ideas. If we do succeed in doing that bit, we will have played our part in fighting the disease.

It is crucial to sit and learn from peoples living with HIV/AIDS and ask them what they would like to do. People living with HIV/AIDS want to do something. They may not be able to till the soil, but they can become involved locally in income earning projects if capacity building and markets are facilitated by the government and support groups and NGO’s.

We are living in real “Hard Times” when child headed families are becoming a common feature of our social set-up! Which leaders are ready to LISTEN and prepared to plan programmes targeting this very deprived group? I do believe this statement and plan is not an isolated comment of negative cynical person. Rather, a representation of concerns and hopes of committed leaders who are convinced of the direct relationship between listening and effective leadership.

What is it that blocks leaders and professionals from appreciating listening as a way of building relationship between themselves and others in particular the HIV/AIDS victims? Of the myriad of answers to this question. I do believe that the major barriers are: Listening does not serve the leader’s personal need. Because behavior is need-directed, a common cause of listening is that leaders find what others say threatening to their own sense of security and self-esteem; They simply do not know how to listen. Too often they assume that if they hear someone speak, they are listening. Or, perhaps they have been taught to listen too literally, hearing the denotation but not the connotation, hearing words but missing the real message; The model of leadership to which they were introduced established the view that, as leaders, they are expected to have the answers. Not having ready reply erodes their self-confidence;They are in a community, which has never had a sense of its own responsibility to speak up and so has surrendered its responsibility to express its own needs.;They believe that listening is unnecessary, that their life experience is sufficient for deciding on a course of action.;They listen to gain support for a course of action they already have in mind rather than as a way of learning the true needs to which their plan of action should respond.;They feel threatened by diversity and fail to appreciate the value of viewpoints and life experiences different from their own.

Rev. Privatus Karugendo.


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