Taking a Stand Against HIV/AIDS

“I need to make money to survive,” said a five-year-old orphan. The spread of HIV/AIDS is quickly turning the world's youngest generation into grown-ups before their time.

There are about 980,000 orphans in Tanzania as a result of HIV/AIDS.  Although the numbers of orphans that have lost both parents are fewer, more orphans have lost their fathers who, in most cases, are the family breadwinners. Most orphans drop out of school after the death of their parents. In Tanzania, the HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be 8.8 percent among the ages of 15-49 and in the program areas where World Neighbors works, it’s almost 22 percent.  East Africa has witnessed an upsurge in the number of orphans due to the deaths caused by HIV/AIDS related infections.

World Neighbors has taken steps in helping these orphans through educating the community and the orphans on the prevention of HIV/AIDS so that they do not fall prey to the epidemic. AIDS orphansTogether with the community members and the caregivers, who in most cases are elderly, World Neighbors has initiated long-lasting income generating activities that can be managed by the orphans. These activities are primarily focused on raising small animals, such as chickens and rabbits, and then selling the offspring or the chicken eggs. Raising goats is one of the most popular activities, because goat milk is high in nutrients and therefore a good immune booster.

Orphans are also helped to establish tree nurseries where different varieties of trees are grown. These are sold to individuals or groups for reforestation and setting up of woodlots. The orphans are also encouraged to plant trees which they sell once they mature. In the same spirit, they are helped to establish fruit orchards. These fruits are very important in enhancing their health and used as a source of income for the family.

The money earned by the children pays for their school supplies, uniforms and also helps to pay for their household expenses, such as food.  These children are highly motivated to earn money so they can stay in school and can contribute to the home where they are living. 

World Neighbors employs various strategies to educate the community on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support. World Neighbors trains youth theatre groups as a medium of information dissemination. Theatre is entertaining and captures people’s attention thus serving as an important tool for passing information. Also, World Neighbors has trained community health workers who are also important for information dissemination. They offer door to door information and raise public awareness and offer support to those already infected by the virus by teaching about proper nutrition, counseling on sexual behavior and support when they are sick.

HIV Group with local staffAnother strategy is information sharing amongst people living with HIV/AIDS. Given that these people already know their status and the pain and suffering from the disease, the community usually takes them seriously when they talk about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. They encourage people to go for voluntary counseling and testing to know their status and to change their sexual behavior. This again helps to destigmatize the disease enabling more people to declare their status. The people living with HIV/AIDS have formed support groups where those who have tested positive are given moral support and encouragement on how to live positively.

Given the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in East Africa and around the world, there is more to be done for the people living with HIV/AIDS and their communities. 

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