The Evolution from AIDS Competence to Community Life Competence

This is an exploration. Please read it as such.

In the AIDS Competence Self Assessment framework, we have 10 practices. The first six are related to AIDS Competence (with the emphasis on AIDS) and the last four are related to AIDS Competence (with the emphasis on Competence).

When we talk about the practice of ‘Access to Treatment’, we are dealing with the specific issues related to AIDS. But when we are talking about ‘Mobilising Resources’, we are dealing with an issue that is relevant when a community wishes to do anything that I can think of.

So in the Assessment framework, we have a group of practices that relate, in the main, to the particular issue that the Competence is dealing with. Perhaps we can call these are ‘Competence-specific practices’. And we have a group that are applicable to just about any issue we are dealing with. So perhaps these are ‘Competence practices’.
Here is my first question. When we organise the practices in this way, I think that it is a fair to ask whether there are more ‘Competence practices’ that we should be including in our list. To reflect on this question, I think that we would need to include issues beyond HIV/AIDS.

When we use the AIDS Competence process our thoughts are very naturally on HIV/AIDS. But when we look at communities as the deal with issues such as HIV/AIDS or malaria, we usually see things happening that reach far beyond the remit of the particular issue under consideration. Here are 3 brief examples.
  1. A woman in Togo explained that she had got into the habit of talking about malaria with her husband. So they had started to talk about other health issues. And that had led on to discussions about family planning. So the competence process leads groups to discuss issues together in a productive way.
  2. In communities that use Malaria Competence, there is a remarkable improvement in the status of women. They now speak up in community meetings and their voice is respected.
  3. When communities engage in widespread and detailed discussions on the cause of malaria, people in the community stop suspecting their neighbours are placing spells on their family. The number of arguments goes down dramatically and the village becomes a happier and more harmonious place.

I don’t think that people would see productive discussions, or an improvement in the status of women or a more harmonious community as results that we would like to place in a particular practice of AIDS Competence or Malaria Competence, but they surface as a result of the process. It is almost as if they emerge naturally from the practice of a Competence process, but they are not a specific objective of the process. So it is not easy, or useful(?) to place these benefits into one of our practices.

I think that these ‘emergent benefits’ identify more of the characteristics of the community that is life competent. So are there any other ideas as to these benefits that emerge from a competence process that are a characteristic of the life competent community?
One final thought. I don’t think that this characteristic of ‘emergent benefits’ is unique to the Competence Process. My experience is that all good processes turn up these, for me, beautiful surprises. I could give several examples. But what this serves to confirm for me is the power and richness of the AIDS/Malaria/Life Competence process.

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Comment by Laurence Gilliot on October 13, 2009 at 7:17am
Hi Phil,

Thank you for sharing your 'illuminating' thoughts with us.

For those members who are not familiar with the practices of the self-assessment, here are the ten:
1. Acknowledgement and recognition
2. Inclusion
3. Linking care and prevention
4. Access to treatment
5. Identifying and addressing vulnerabilities
6. Gender
7. Learning and transfer
8. Measuring change and adapting our response
9. Ways of working
10. Mobilizing resource
More information on our website:

I'm wondering if the practice of 'Acknowledgement and recognition' and 'Gender' are not also related to the 'Competent community' and so not specific to HIV.
I see from communities in Thailand that the first step to deal with any issue is to acknowledge that there is an issue and to feel ownership of this issue. Isn't this step common to any issue? In a way, we could even say that the step of the dream and of the self-assessment are steps that stimulate the acknowledgement of the issue by the community.
For gender, you gave good examples of how the relationship between women and men improved on all levels.

Just some thoughts on a Tuesday morning ;-)

Best regards,

Comment by Dr Rajesh Gopal on October 9, 2009 at 11:21pm
Thanks Phil!

That is a wonderful articulation of the efforts to delineate the activities for AIDS COMPETENCE(emphasis on both).

I strongly feel the key to the same lies in effective communication at all levels-from intra-personal communication(introspection) to social change communication.

Regards and best wishes,

Rajesh Gopal.


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