SWAPO (Support AIDS Widows and Orphans) is making a real difference in the fight against HIV in Uganda. HIV is a big problem in the country, with over a million people infected with the virus. While things have been improving in recent years, much hard work still remains to be done and the efforts of organisations like SWAPO are crucial in changing attitudes and practices related to HIV risk behaviour.
SWAPO is providing access to HIV prevention and health care services for young people in the Pader district of Uganda by offering monthly counselling and testing outreaches throughout the community. They tested 161 young people in February and March, 2013, while visiting homes to counsel young people with HIV. SWAPO also provide vital HIV/AIDS and health information to young pregnant women to improve the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the disease.
Another key area of SWAPO’s work is in changing negative attitudes towards people living with HIV. One way they do this is by holding monthly HIV-sensitisation meetings in the community, using drama and video shows to challenge the stigma often attached to people with HIV. They also host a show on a local radio station, inviting one young person with HIV a week to talk about their experiences.
Jane’s story (name changed to protect the individual’s identity) highlights the success of this radio show. Jane lives in the Pader district of Uganda. Her daughter died of AIDS in 2009, leaving her to care for her young grandson who has HIV. Fearing that the boy had no future, Jane thought about abandoning him. However, having heard the encouraging testimonies of children living with HIV on SWAPO’s radio show, she came to realise that the hopeless future her grandson faced could be avoided. After seeking advice from SWAPO, her grandson is now going to school and getting the medical attention he needs.
This story is just one of many that show the importance of community schemes like SWAPO. The battle against HIV has to be fought in many different ways and educating people is just as vital as treating them. By doing so, SWAPO and others like them can ensure a better future for the young people of Uganda.
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