HIV Storytelling for Seven Years: Celebrating Ethiopia’s First Radio Diary Program

Published: November 26, 2013, 12:00 am

Betengna, the first radio program in Ethiopia to feature the true stories of people living with HIV, celebrated its seventh anniversary at the end of September.

“I am so happy to have told my story. I have felt strengthened and empowered from doing so,” stated Umma Shoa, a Betengna radio diarist, at the celebration.

Betengna staff celebrates seven years of successful HIV storytelling.

“Betengna” refers to a welcomed guest who often visits one's home. The radio program, which is implemented by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU∙CCP) EXCELERATE project in Ethiopia with support from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), uses real life stories to provide unique insight into the experience of being HIV positive in Ethiopia.

At the celebration other radio diarists echoed the positive, cathartic experience described by Shoa. The first two diarists to share their stories on Betengna, Hiwot and Sirak, talked about the challenges they faced as pioneers on the show, but also how proud they are to have braved the criticism and made it possible for future diarists to share their stories.

Over the past seven years, 43 diarists have told their stories on Betengna. The stories have been shared in Amharic, Oromiffa or Tigrigna. The radio program has been aired weekly on seven radio stations across Addis Ababa as well as in Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray regions.

Betengna has not only had a positive impact on its storytellers; indeed, its audience has also benefited from the radio program.

“Even my children tell me that I have changed,” said Martha, a mother of two and an avid Betengna listener for six years. After her husband tested positive for HIV, Martha became angry and frustrated. She divorced her husband and lost the will to care for her children. But listening to Betengna gave Martha the confidence to share her story. She spoke to a Betengna producer who connected her to a JHU∙CCP counselor from the Wegen AIDS Talkline, a national hotline that provides callers with information related to HIV and AIDS, counseling and referrals. “[Thanks to Betengna] I’ve gotten my life back,” Martha said emphatically at the anniversary celebration.

Learn more about EXCELERATE and Betengna.