by Wondwosen Hailu
Biruk had to supplement his needs by scavenging in Addis Ababa’s biggest garbage dumping site, located few hundred meters from his home. He was on the verge of dropping out of school.
New hope came to him through a local NGO called HAPCSO (Hiwot HIV/AIDS Prevention Care & Support Organization), which receives funding and technical support from ChildFund Ethiopia to assist orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV/AIDs. HAPCSO awarded Biruk a full scholarship, which enabled him to afford school materials and fees, and made him eligible for a dry food ration and a cash allowance of $100 birr per month.
His social life also took a new path when he joined the Scout Club, which he currently leads. The Scout Club provides children with life skills, counseling support and recreational activities. Club members play games and perform music and drama. They also learn skills needed to become successful team players. The club, which has 110 regular and 300 associate members from Kolfe Keranyo sub city in Addis Ababa, regularly conducts life skills and health training for children.
Through their performances, children and youth educate members of their community on the negative effects of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and promotes desirable behaviors. As a result of their activities, 70 iddirs (a form of indigenous social insurance for help members during bereavement) revised their bylaws to include an article on providing care and support to vulnerable children.
The Scout Club has been instrumental in turning Biruk’s life around. He continues to amaze the school community with his extraordinary work. For the last three years, he has been the top scorer in his class.
Biruk, who escaped a life of garbage scavenging, aspires to become a medical doctor. He wishes to save lives of Ethiopians who suffer from diseases.
Guest post by Arthur of Zambia
My name is Arthur and I am 15 years old. I am HIV-positive. I tested positive in December 2006. I live in Kafue District of Zambia with my parents, older sister and aunties, and I am enrolled in ChildFund programs.
World AIDS Day is a very important day for me as people the world over come together to show their support for those living with HIV. When AIDS was discovered in the early 1980s, all the people in the world were shocked and filled with fear. A lot of stories trying to explain the cause of this deadly disease were being told.
After much research was done it was discovered that this disease was caused by a virus called HIV, which attacks the human immune system and is found in human blood. It was also discovered that one can get the disease through sexual intercourse, and this caused a lot of stigma and discrimination to the people infected. Eventually, people began to realize that everyone could be affected, as a lot of people were dying from AIDS.
Many children were left orphaned, and people were losing friends and relatives. The world again realized that even if you were not infected you were affected and decided to come together to fight this deadly disease called AIDS. Other discoveries were made on the mode of transmission such as mother-to-child transmission.
To show world unity, people began to commemorate World AIDS Day in December 2000. This is one of the biggest days for people living with HIV because it helps them to feel recognized, accepted and supported. They are not excluded but included.
AIDS has widely spread through six continents and 54 African countries. With so many people affected, there is no reason for a negative attitude toward people who are infected.
World AIDS Day is a day to show love, care and support to people who are infected. Despite AIDS not being curable, medicines have been produced to boost one’s immune system and give hope for the future. If one is infected, it does not mean it’s the end of world. With ARVs (antiretroviral medications), one can live their life to the fullest.
World AIDS Day is a day when the infected and the affected can celebrate the end of stigma and discrimination and continue fighting the good fight of faith. One day, we will win.
In Zambia, 78 percent of the rural population lives on less than $1 a day, says Ely Keita, ChildFund’s National Director for Zambia. The impact of HIV/AIDS has heightened pressures on poor families. To help reverse the extreme poverty in this country, ChildFund programs are focusing on educational opportunities, health services and livelihood training for youth.
Hear more from Ely in this video interview:
Every year, a unique cattle roundup takes place in Soroti, Uganda. But instead of an auction, there is a community celebration of sharing a valuable resource with those less fortunate.
Partners for Children Worldwide, the ChildFund-supported federation in the Teso Subregion, works with the Acowa community to provide heifers to families of orphaned and HIV/AIDS-affected children. Since 1997, community members have shared 816 head of cattle with those most in need.
This year, 27 families received heifers, which provide nutritional milk for the family and manure to improve agricultural yields. Surplus crops mean extra income for families who have been struggling to survive. Owning a heifer is the fulfillment of a long-held wish for food and income security.
As a result of the heifer-sharing program, household incomes in the Acowa Community are gradually increasing. The Cattle Dispersal Committee is working to reach more families every year. As milk production increases, the committee envisions forming a community co-op to market and sell surplus milk to other communities.
by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager
As we mark World Health Day, cities and communities across the world are participating in this World Health Organization effort to improve individual and collective health globally.
Having just returned from a ChildFund Study Tour in Kenya, I was pleased to learn that Nairobi is one of 13,000 cities participating in this year’s World Health Day events, with an emphasis on urban health.
This week, Nairobi is closing a major street to traffic and setting up a health fair. Fun activities including music, dance, acrobats and a carnival procession will advocate and educate the public on healthy lifestyles in cities.
As we learned on a project visit to the Karai Pamoja HIV/AIDS support group in Kenya, education is absolutely critical to improved health. When this community was struck with the AIDS epidemic several years ago, the majority of the population feared the disease and lacked adequate knowledge about transmission and prevention. Those who became ill did not receive adequate care or nutrition. Children struggled to survive as their parents became bedridden or died.
In September 2005, ChildFund Kenya’s Weaving the Safety Net program “came to the rescue of the Karai community in the Kikuyu District,” explains Gad Son Thiru, chair of the community-based organization. ChildFund trained home-based care workers to support the bedridden and refer them to health facilities for antiretroviral therapy.
Next came the formation of the Karai Pamoja support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. It started with 15 members who tested positive and grew to 86 members. “Karai Pamoja support group became the only hope and savior of the people living with HIV/AIDS in this area because it was here members felt safe and secure,” Gad explains. Members felt safe to share personal worries, fears and hopes for the future.
As the members regained their health through good nutrition and access to medication, ChildFund helped them develop income-generating activities. The group has opened a community bank account, and the money is used to buy food, improve housing and support their children’s education.
ChildFund also helped sustain the community’s children by providing school uniforms, books, deworming, vitamin A supplements, mosquito nets and psychosocial support.
“As you can see,” Gad says, “you cannot tell our HIV status because we are now strong and back to our feet.”
ChildFund International’s commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Ruth Nateleela, who is living with HIV/AIDS in Kireka, a township in south-central Uganda. She is receiving care and support from ChildFund and its program partners. Sheila Birungi, ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.
Are you able to work, and, if so, what type of work do you do?
Yes, but right now I am not working since I have just given birth. However, before I was doing petty trade, selling charcoal and other consumables like tomatoes and onions.
Do you have children? How does this affect your outlook on the future?
I have four children. I know the future of myself and the children is bright because my child who is HIV-positive is taking ARVs (anti-retrovirals), and they told me that she can live as long as the drugs are taken well. I am also taking my drugs well. For the youngest child of three months, I was given PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) capsules, and the doctors told me that that she will be fine.
How long have you lived with this disease?
I knew three years ago.
What education have you received?
I was first told that if you test your blood you will be able to know your status. After that, I went to ChildFund offices at the Kireka project and tested the first time. They told me that I was HIV positive and I did not believe, but I went to Mildmay Centre and they told me the same thing.
When I went, they told us on how to eat and about using condoms. They also told me to tell the doctors that I am pregnant since they have to take care of the baby such that she does not contract the disease.
How have ChildFund programs helped you?
ChildFund’s Kireka project is the one that gave me light on everything. I would be even dead by now if it was not for the project. They gave me access to the blood test. They also [referred] me to Mildmay, and now they are the ones who come to remind me on how to take my drugs. They have been giving food to my child for a long time — the one who is HIV-positive — and taking her to their centre to play. Mrs. Sseruwaji Nuru [home-based volunteer] is very instrumental to me. I ask God to bless her because she made me regain my life and I must say thank you to ChildFund.
As a person living with HIV/AIDS do you feel accepted? And do you feel safe?
Yes I am. Why are you shaking my hands? It’s because you do not discriminate against me, and I am not any differently treated in the community. I am so happy about life generally, and I don’t have any problem.
How is this disease affecting the community in which you live?
People are very sick, but the good thing is that now no one can laugh at any one with HIV. Actually, these days, people share a lot about the experiences, and they even direct each other to the service centres.
Do you thing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights?
Yes, because we are all the same people in front of God. So if I have HIV, it does not mean that because you do not that there is a difference in terms of human rights.
What are your goals for the future? What are your dreams?
To have good family and to be able to bring up all my children and educate them all.
Any details you would like to share with others about HIV/AIDS and the people like you who have it?
I just want to tell them that HIV is real and to always test themselves because that’s the beginning of life. For my friends who have it, they need to care about themselves and this can only be done when you meet all the necessary people, like organizations, and make friends through telling them your status.
ChildFund International programs provide care and support to thousands of parents and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Our commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Sseruwaji Nuru, a home-based care volunteer who is HIV-positive and working with others living with HIV/AIDS in the Kampala area. Sheila Birungi, a ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.
How long have you been working with HIV/AIDS patients?
Since 2002 when ChildFund trained us as volunteers in home-based care (HBC).
How did you come to be in this field work?
We were selected by team of staff as the people to train in HBC, and I accepted.
What are your principal job responsibilities?
The major one is to keep confidentiality for our clients and also to [treat] all the clients as an individual. They are not the same and they should be treated in different ways. Recordkeeping is also another thing to keep in control because we are handling a lot of information, especially on adherence to ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs). And we, therefore, have to stress the times when the drugs are taken and the progress.
Where do you work?
I see the patients at the home and make sure that they get the drugs they have to receive.
What is your case load?
I have up to 28 clients; however, in every month the numbers have to change because of the different migrations out of most of the members. On the days I work, I see about four patients every day, especially if I do not have a lot of my own work. On a weekly basis, I can have 8 to 10 of them.
What is your key area in working with someone with HIV/AIDS?
Disclosure first. Stigma reduction. Nutrition and adherence to ARVs.
What are the day-to-day lives like for the patients with HIV/AIDS?
They have time for joy and they can be sorrowful at times. The work they do depends on how well they are, and they can sometimes be rude to the family member. The time without good meals is very bad, especially because of the drugs they take. Sometimes the day can be bad if they have demands for money, for example, house rent and other domestic needs for their families and also school fees.
What progress have you seen with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment since you’ve been working in this area?
People are no longer stigmatized, and they are positively living with it. Many people are now able to live longer and with healthy families. Also, the installation of hope in whatever they are doing.
Are people better educated in prevention than before?
Yes, and very much better lives realized.
by Naomi Njoki Nyaga as told to ChildFund Kenya
To commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Naomi, who lives in the Kiambu District of Kenya’s Central Province, agreed to share her story. Today, we continue with part two of Naomi’s story of living with HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is Universal Access and Human Rights.
With time, I made up my mind not to sit and wait for people to come and sympathize with me, but rather find a way to earn a living. Besides working hard on my farm, I started cooking food and hawking it at construction sites and market places. Since then, my children have not lacked life’s basic essentials. I recently bought a dairy cow, which supplies us
with milk for use at home and the little surplus is sold.
Having gone through tough times, I resolved to go out in the community and help many people with the same challenges learn how to cope with their conditions. I want to see them come out of denial and self-hate and be the best they can be. That has become the mission of my life.
When I expressed this desire to Kihara Widows CBO officials, they were excited about it. They asked me to join them as a member of Kihara Widows CBO, where I would be better placed to reach more others. Through ChildFund WSN (Weaving the Safety Net) program, I received training as a Community-Based Worker. I identified five clients who were completely bedridden and in dire need of support in form of home-based care.
Braved Ridicule and Objection
One case I will never forget is of a lady who had literally been abandoned by her family and left to die. Her children had been clandestinely taken to live with a relative who lived a long distance from her home. Her relatives went every morning and evening to check whether she had died. Before that could happen, I got wind of it, and swiftly went to rescue her. I braved ridicule and objection from her relatives. I was not about to see another soul die when I could help. When she regained her health, I helped reunite her with her children. She is now a very successful business woman and a Community Based Worker just like me.
I have joined hands with many other like-minded groups who have a passion and commitment to not only helping people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) but also assisting the community to accept rather than stigmatize and discriminate people in such conditions. I strive to sensitize the community to provide a favorable environment for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS so as to enable us live life to its fullness without putting barriers to our ambitions.
Accepting My Condition and Choosing to Live Positively
I have received further training in Community Health Work through the Ministry of Health. I also represent Kihara Widows in the Constituency AIDS Control Committee (CACC) in the location, and work very closely with Kihara Health Center as a patient trainer, having received training for the same through the International Center for Aids Care and Treatment Program (ICAP). I am often called upon to give motivational talks at churches, chiefs’ barazas [meeting places], schools and other social gatherings. Accepting my condition and choosing to live positively have not only enabled me regain my self worth, but I’m also able to instill the same to others with confidence.
Now I realize I have a purpose to live. My family is happy. We are progressing well in life. My firstborn son who is 19 is currently sitting for his final examination in high school. The sister who follows him is 15 and in form two. My 10-year-old son is in standard three, while the last born girl is 5 years attending nursery school [Early Childhood Development Center]. I have disclosed to my three older children and made them know that, their youngest sister and I are HIV positive. They have accepted our status and are very keen to ensure we adhere to our daily medication.
I do not see my life as being abnormal in any way nor do I allow myself to be affected by what insensitive people say about me or my children. I urge everyone to know their HIV status. Testing positive to HIV/AIDS does not translate to death. I am a living proof — it is possible to come out of self-stigma, overcome stigma from without and live a full life.
Healing begins from within.
Tomorrow: The story of a HIV/AIDS home-based care volunteer in Uganda.
by Naomi Njoki Nyaga as told to ChildFund Kenya
On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Naomi, who lives in the Kiambu District of Kenya’s Central Province, agreed to share her story. The 37-year-old widowed mother of four children, Naomi and her youngest child are HIV-positive. She and her children are enrolled in the ChildFund Weaving the Safety Net program for orphans and other vulnerable children, which has delivered medical care and support to the family. This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is Universal Access and Human Rights. Today and tomorrow, Naomi shares her story.
Having lost my husband to HIV/AIDS in the year 2005, I knew it was just a matter of time before the same fate befell me, as I had also been diagnosed and tested HIV-positive.
I lost hope of living the day my husband was buried.
Back then, HIV/AIDS was considered a death sentence in my village. I had attended countless burials and had no doubt in my mind my day was imminent.
Depressed and Ill
My health started deteriorating very fast. I sunk into a serious depression. The whole situation would have been bearable with support from those around me, specifically my relatives, but it wasn’t so. They avoided us like a plague. I would spend days without anyone visiting me, despite them knowing how much I needed their support. Some even avoided a simple handshake. I felt such a social misfit. I begun to hate myself, and bitterness was slowly consuming me.
A Ray of Hope
When I thought all was lost, I encountered a local community-based organization (CBO) —Kihara Widows, a ChildFund partner in the Weaving the Safety Net for Orphans and other Vulnerable Children (WSN/OVC) program which understood my circumstances. In 2006, my children were enrolled in the program, which made me feel some weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My firstborn son, who had lost hope of going to high school, was enabled to do so. My other three children also became beneficiaries of the various interventions in WSN program.
The kind visitors from Kihara Widows CBO, who were now becoming good friends, noticed that my condition was worsening. Having been trained in home-based care they started coming to my home more frequently. Their encouragement, home-based care services and commitment made me come out of the sorry state I was in. My perception to life was different. There was a ray of hope, not just for my children but also for me. A determination to conquer started building up within me. Soon I wanted to live more than ever before, as it dawned on me that I have a right to life. Through their encouragement, I sought treatment for the opportunistic infections that had become frequent, I guess aggravated by stress, fear and anger. Soon I was put on anti-retroviral therapy.
Tomorrow: Read how Naomi is now supporting her family and helping others who face the same challenges that she has.