We feel it is helpful to turn back to the IX DREAM pan-African formation course held in Maputo last October, to become more aware of the spirit in which participants tackled the theoretical and practical presentation of our programme. Not only did they show considerable interest in the professional nature of the lectures delivered, they also displayed a profound understanding of unique elements of the outlook towards patients that is found in all DREAM centres in Africa.
At any rate, our formation courses have definitely become nothing less than renowned places for the transmission of knowledge about AIDS and its treatment in an African context. However, the courses are also a sort of forum where the belief in the centrality of the person, the patient, is widely shared: this is basically the most innovative and humanizing characteristic of the programme, the spirit of DREAM, expressed in a consistently scientific approach to the disease.
From such a perspective, the module for centre coordinators (one of three work modules that our formation course is usually sub-divided into) is a privileged place that highlights these unique features of DREAM especially clearly. This is largely because the coordinator of a DREAM centre personally sees to the registration of sick people and hence establishes an initial relationship of understanding and trust with them.
In Maputo, during the final session of the module, some confessed that at first they had approached the course just “as a doctor: my aim was that of receiving purely technical formation”. And yet, “I discovered much more!” In effect, there was the air of having made a discovery, the discovery that it is possible to have “a different vision. Thank you for teaching us how a sick person feels and how to be close to him or her in a professional manner that is human and full of hope,” said another participant.
Many participants talked about the surprise they felt – in a way – when faced with an approach that could be considered as original, described as “personalized treatment, that is, a strong will to give attention to each and every person from a medical as well as a human point of view. In some ways, I would never have thought that such attention could possibly be experienced in a health centre.” But this surprise made a positive impact, bringing encouragement and hope. The conclusion drawn was that this was no longer a solely methodological problem but one involving the spirit too. Those who come for therapy are regarded differently, with a new spirit of considerable attention for the sick person and his or her needs. The bottom line is: “Nothing is impossible and concrete difficulties (which are many) do not signify defeat.”
For many, looking at sick people with new eyes has thus become an opportunity to better understand of the reality in which they work, an understanding that is not a foregone conclusion, even among those who have been working in Africa for a long time: “For me, participating in this course was like a victory. There were so many things I had not fully understood. I had not fully understood the massive tragedy that AIDS presents for our countries, I had not grasped how