In 2004 and 2006, during the MDICP-3 and MDICP-4 waves of data collection, all respondents were offered in-home voluntary counseling and testing for HIV (VCT), administered by trained VCT counselors and nurses who came from areas of Malawi outside of the respondent’s village. Reactions to VCT were captured through ethnographic journals kept by the VCT counselors and nurses, who recorded daily what they heard people say about VCT. These individuals could be identified locally as members of the MDICP field team by their project T-shirt, “Let’s Chat”. The journalists employed several approaches to capturing local conversations about VCT. Some journalists recorded what people said publicly about VCT, such as conversations they overheard at a borehole or local market, or comments made during village meetings. Others recounted conversations from their VCT sessions with respondents, or questions they entertained by locals who had approached them. As a result, the journals include comments made both by those who are in the MDICP sample and those who are not. All journals were transcribed (and in some cases, translated) in the field.
The VCT journals are part of a larger observational field journal project motivated by the interest of the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project in the content of informal conversations in social networks. The journals provide a rare picture of rural Africans responding to the AIDS epidemic. Those who wish more details about the ethnographic journal project should read Introduction to the Journals, by Amy Kaler and Susan Watkins.
The journals are available for free download. Interested readers should refer to the Guidelines to the Journals for important remarks on confidentiality and editing. A glossary of terms frequently used in the journals is also available.
The journals were coded in NVivo, a qualitative analysis software. Interested readers should read Introduction to coding the journals with NVivo, by Peter Fleming.
Disclaimer: All names of people and places (other than public figures) have been changed to preserve the confidentiality of the conversations.
Select VCT Diaries from MDICP-4 (2006)
Bennis: June 13 (conversations about villagers accepting and refusing tests, recounting pre-testing village meetings, 11 pp.)
Daniel: June 20 (description of a village meeting about VCT prior to testing, 3 pp.)
Eliko: July 4 (conversations about respondent’s knowledge about HIV, rapid testing, demand for testing by villagers not in the MDICP sample, 3 pp.)
Emily: June 19 (conversations about test refusal, condoms and abortions responsible for HIV, villagers advising others not to be tested, village rumors about MDICP VCT testing, 5 pp.)
January: June 13 (conversations about villagers’ reasons for accepting and refusing tests, 2 pp.)
McDonald: June 20 (conversations about spouses sharing testing results, 4 pp.)
Molly: July 4 (conversations about villagers’ accepting and refusing tests, concerns about partners previously transmitting HIV, discordant couple results, 6 pp.)
Steven: June 15 (villagers’ responses to HIV testing by MDICP VCT team, condoms given to children, “tell us the truth about AIDS,” curiosity about discordant results, questions about assistance to HIV-positive respondents, majority of refusals in a village, 9 pp.)