The current HIV prevalence in Uganda is estimated at 6.4% among adults, and women are disproportionately affected, accounting for 57% of all adults living with HIV. Social and biological factors put women at a higher risk of the infection. The Health Community Empowerment Project's Gweeri Women against HIV/AIDS initiative was started by 20 women who had received earlier training in HIV counseling. The goal of this organization is to increase women’s knowledge and therefore empower them through positive living and HIV/AIDS prevention skills. The group worked with village health teams to develop tools that guided their work. The tools included interview guidelines, questionnaires that aided group discussions, and guidelines to aid counseling sessions.
In one of the initial meetings, there were five widows who had lost their husbands to AIDS related illnesses, and ten who had developed signs of HIV infection; yet only five of them had ever been tested. Two of the five tested positive. Of the three who tested negative, one was in a polygamous marriage and had feared she could be infected. The group’s effort was to empower the women to have an HIV test.
Health Community Empowerment Project - Kampala, Uganda, Africa
First, Gweeri Women Against HIV/AIDS worked with women leaders at different levels and solicited support from experts for an update of new strategies to address community needs. The objectives of the organization are to identify and develop a team that will work to educate and counsel on HIV/AIDS related issues; to access community members through churches, local council meetings, and the media; and to refer those in need of technical expertise. The mission of the organization is to promote group work through team building and empower the community with knowledge and skills on HIV /AIDS prevention and control.
In addition, the strategies this organization utilizes include:
We worked with the nearby referral units to determine the number of people who were accessing the services from the targeted community, and noted that there were increased numbers of people who were accessing the services and using anti-retroviral drugs. Additionally, the number of people who were accessing the Counseling services had increased. Many youths were opting for abstinence, and others were considering condom use as a method of protection. Our records show that the number of volunteers has increased and members have increased their knowledge of HIV.
The organization utilizes several tactics to sustain the work including:
Many women have accessed HIV testing services and many have been started on anti-retroviral drugs.
Members of the group have held individual and group counseling sessions. One woman confessed that she wanted to commit suicide after she had tested positive. Her husband had died of AIDS related infections; he had two wives, and neither of them had ever had an HIV test. After the death of their husband, the youngest wife left for her parents’ home because of the cost of living. Because of the work of Gweeri Women Against AIDS, this woman had a support system to help her find the courage to get tested, and now she is in the process of having her children tested, too.
Health Community Empowerment Project's Website: http://www.healthcommunityempowermentproject.blogspot.com/