Votre Sante, Votre Avenir – Your Health, Your Future Visits the DRC

Six months after the launch of “Votre Sante Votre Avenir” (Your Health, Your Future) on May 12, 2011, VOA’s new health program, writer and host Khalil Gueye and Producer Fatouma Kalala travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they joined the show’s local coordinator Chouchou Kahowa, to organize a series of town halls conferences in Kinshasa, Kananga, Lubumbashi and Goma. These town halls included live audience- taped radio and television versions of “Votre Sante Votre Avenir” in girl’s schools and University Campuses. In addition, local journalists and health reporters were trained on best practices in HIV/AIDS reporting.

On October 31, “Votre Sante Votre Avenir” host Khalil Gueye was the guest of TELE 50 in Kinshasa, the DRC’s leading digital television station. TELE 50 airs nationally on satellite and is also accessible worldwide on line.  Khalil was featured on the 8 o’clock prime time newscast, interviewed on “Votre Santé Votre Avenir”, on the role played by VOA in the fight against AIDS in the DRC and on the VOA’s team trip program.

November 1, 2011

The first series of “Mise a Niveau’ training of Congolese journalists was held at the Memling Hotel in Kinsahasa. The training on practical techniques and ways of writing good health story conducted by VOA’s Khalil involved 25 journalists comprising of television, radio, newspapers and Internet reporters.  Training on HIV/AIDS reporting emphasized on the importance of reliable sources, particularly the impact of an HIV/AIDS patient as the source of a story. For even greater authenticity and strength, a good story on HIV/AIDS also needed to feature a doctor as part of the sources for data, disease progress and other statistical figures.

Sitting with Gueye, were Mr. Fidel Mbenda, a person living with the AIDS virus and Dr. Aime Mboyo, assistant coordinator of the Programme National Multi Sectoriel De Lutte Contre Le Sida (PNMLS),  the country’s National Program for the Fight Against Aids. In a live exercise, Gueye organized and directed the interaction between journalists and the two sources. Discussions went on towards the best report possible, including the humanization of the story and the inclusion of friends and relatives of the patient and also, politicians seeking election or reelection.

Gueye shared techniques of writing, starting the conversation with the patient or with any character in the story, insisting on the use of politically correct vocabulary when writing on AIDS or when interviewing AIDS patients. In the second segment of the training, Journalists went right on practicing what they just learned and Dr. Aime Mboyo and Mr. Fidel Mbenda faced all the questions of the reporters and provided them with genuine information on AIDS in the DRC.  At the end of the day, the 25 reporters of Kinshasa decided to set up a network of Congolese Journalists Reporting on Aids.

On the next day, November 2, the “Votre Sante…” team went to Lycée Dr. Shaumba (Dr Shaumba High School), an all-girl high school in Kinshsasa for a town hall and a radio and television taped program.

Dr. Aime Mboyo and Mr. Fidele Mbenda were also present to answer questions on AIDS from 100 school girls.The girls asked several questions on the role of the show in the fight against AIDS in the DRC, the prevalence of aids in the country, and also on HIV/AIDS prevention and AIDS patient management.

The Kinshasa “Votre Sante…” taping at the Dr. Shaumba All-Girl High School was also attended by members of the United States Embassy in the DRC and in neighboring republic of Congo. Votre Sante Votre Avenir crew then left Kinshasa for Kananga in Kasai Occidental, where it held the similar activities.

On November 7, 15 journalists attended the workshop on the best practices on HIV/AIDS reporting. Jean Marie is a person living with the virus. He faced journalists and answered questions on how he lives with the virus in the Kananga society and how his family faces the issue.  Sitting with Jean Marie, was Ms. Christine Mpoutou of the National Program for the Fight Against Aids (PNMLS). Christine gave statistics on the fight against AIDS in the Province and answered questions asked by journalists attending the workshop.

Here too, Congolese journalists from the Kasai Occidental Province decided to set up the local chapter of the National Network of Congolese journalists covering HIV/AIDS.

In Kananga, the team of “Votre Sante Votre Avenir” also organized a town hall and a radio televised audience-taped show.  The audience was constituted of young school boys and girls from three different Kananga high schools.

During the taping, Ms. Christine and Jean Marie faced the children’s questions.

In Kananga, “Votre Santé…” correspondent Patrick Mukengueshayi who was joined by Mbuji Mayi correspondent Fortuna Kassongo for the program received powerful Grundig Short Waves radio sets from VOA. The devices will allow them to retransmit the Show live through their studio booths.

After Kananga, the team headed for Lubumbashi in the province of Katanga for the same activities.  A group of 15 journalists from different media in Lubumbashi attended the November 10, workshop.

Following the training, two HIV/AIDS patients, Paul Yumba and young Stephanie Kayumba accepted to openly speak to journalists. They were sided by Dr. Angele Assily of the National program for the Fight against Aids.

On November 11, the “Votre Santé…” team moved to the University of Lubumbashi, School of Journalism to tape a radio and television program on AIDS. Questions came from all parts of the filled amphitheater. Young future journalists asked questions to Dr. Angele and to the two HIV/AIDS patients.“Votre Santé…” correspondent in Lubumbashi Régine KASSONGO received a Short Waves radio set to capture the signal of VOA and air “Votre- Santé-Votre Avenir” on Saturday afternoons on her station RCK.

While in Lubumbashi, the “Votre Santé…” team visited the newly launched Radio and Television station “Radio Kiondo”. The director of the station, Caleb Banza expressed his desire to carry “Votre Santé Votre Avenir” every week.   Narval Mabila of Radio Kiondo who will also act as a distributor of “Votre Santé…” in the DRC also received a Short Waves radio set for airing the show live on Kiondo and also duplicating it for distribution to the remote areas community radio stations.

The “Votre-Santé-Votre-Avenir” team left Lubumbashi for the city of Goma in the province of North Kivu to carry on with the same activities on November 13.

In Goma, 12 journalists from different media in the city attended the workshop. Like in other places, after having reviewed some of the best practices in HIV/AIDS reporting, journalists were put in presence of a doctor and a person living with HIV/AIDS. The exchange was very lively and journalists got a good sense of what an HIV/AIDS patient experiences and were exposed to data on the disease and the fight against it in the DRC.
On November 14, the “Votre Santé Votre Avenir” team moved to UNIGOM schools to organize a radio and television audience taping of the program before an audience of 150 people.

A full room followed the program and students asked Dr. Alice Mudekeraza several questions about HIV/AIDS.  HIV/AIDS patient interacted freely with the audience.


Our trip to the DRC went extremely well and we believe the “Votre Santé Votre Avenir” show will have measureable impact of in the country. In addition to our airing on short waves, the show is also aired by Raga FM in its national network and by seven VOA affiliates in the DRC.  The minister of Communication also committed to the carrying of the show by the country’s national radio and television nework, RTNC. We are working on the details.

People living with HIV/AIDS and doctors congratulated us and the show for “being the voice of people living with HIV/AIDS in the fight against the disease in the DRC.”  In all four provinces, journalists expressed their desire to collaborate with the show and work in better covering issues related to the disease.  In all four cities, the journalists who attended the workshops also expressed their interest in the setting up and joining a national network of Congolese Journalists Reporting on AIDS. More stations have expressed their interest in airing the show for free.