Seventeen years since the HIV and AIDS gained prominence in Sierra Leone, the Christian Aid Organization remains one of those who continue to fight its spread especially in concordance with some of their partners, like RADA, APOEM, MCSL, ARD, NMJD and Solivna Fishing Project, with whom they recently concluded a days workshop on HIV/AIDS Civil Society Advocacy for Development.
In one of their interventions, a team of seven from four of the partners visited Uganda to acquaint themselves with that country's success in reducing the spread and prevalence of the disease.
Sharing her experience of Uganda, Anne Kargbo from the Rehabilitation and Development Agency (RADA) said the reasons for their successes include government's policy, presidential support, effort of religious bodies and other civil society groups.
She noted that the prevalence rate of the disease is much higher in rural areas that hold on to certain myths about the virus, adding that 50% of all new infections are between the ages of 19-25, with girls being six times more infected than boys.
She also noted that their purpose of visit was to make field placement to facilitate learning, develop models that can be used in own country context, facilitate information exchange and draw principles on best practices of HIV/AIDS intervention that can be replicated in one country.
Kargbo further outlined their learning activities and strategies that Uganda uses including life skills session, career drives, child/parent symposia/community support to people living with aids, peer education, stepping stones principles and methodology, home based care, voluntary testing and counseling (VTC), advocacy, information system and coordination, collaboration and networking developing IEC material and recreation activities.
She reiterated that there are still challenges that they've not been able to meet, like the availability of medical, retroviral therapy and drugs, as well as adequate information education, communication about HIV/AIDS, the ability of people to effectively use these to change their behavior, monitoring and evaluation of the impact of HIV/AIDS work.
She concluded by outlining the lessons learnt, total governmental involvement, capacity building, community based programs, time and duration of HIV/AIDS work, sustainability strategies, networking and advocacy of relevant issues and the strengthening of civil society groups, career building, staffing, and youth field sensitization and sustainability strategies.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world that is most affected by HIV/AIDS. An estimated 26.6 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and approximately 3.2 million new infections occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2003. In just the past year the epidemic has claimed the lives of an estimated 2.3 million Africans. Ten million young people (aged 15-24) and almost 3 million children under 15 are living with HIV. An estimated eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.