Last month, just 3 weeks after starting work at MTV Staying Alive Foundation, I was lucky enough to attend our five day Leadership Training Course in Lake Naivasha, Kenya. The training is for our more established grantees and helps them to learn about things like volunteer management, recruitment and team empowerment, ultimately helping them to become more effective and sustainable organisations. As well as showing me first-hand the depth of the training we provide to our partners, the course also gave me the chance to learn more about the incredible work these grantees do.
All MTV Staying Alive Foundation partners are small, youth-led organisations, and aim to prevent HIV amongst young, at-risk populations, but that’s pretty much all they have in common. During the training course, I met grantees from a Kenyan prisons project who are raising awareness of HIV/AIDS through sports and theatre; another that delivered sexual health education in Ugandan schools with poetry competitions; and a project providing counselling, information and condoms to men who have sex with men (MSM) in Eastern Nigeria.
One project that particularly caught my eye was one of our LGBT projects from Nigeria. The Same Sex Prohibition Act was passed in Nigeria in 2014, criminalising same sex marriage and the formation of gay clubs or societies. As well as legitimising discrimination, the law is hugely damaging to the country’s fight against HIV: it means that the MSM community is forced underground, unable to talk openly about safe sex, less likely to be tested or treated, and increasingly at risk of infection. When you think about these challenges, you realise just how incredibly important this project is.
It is not just them who face challenges though: it’s fair to say that all of our partners work in difficult environments. That hasn’t stopped them achieving incredible results.
Over the past 12 months, MTV Staying Alive Foundation partners have managed to reach some of the most marginalised populations in the world: MSM communities in Nigeria; prisoners in Burundi; injecting drug users in Kenya. Working in these communities, they have trained 9,000 peer educators, distributed 600,000 condoms, and helped 10,000 to be tested for HIV. In total, they have directly reached 150,000 people in 12 months.
MTV Staying Alive Foundation partners have limited funds, are volunteer-run, and are working to alleviate big problems. In the communities they work, HIV rates are extremely high and they are trying to reach marginalised, and often criminalised, groups. However, the stories they told me during the 5-day training were never categorised by despair, but were always filled with optimism that HIV/AIDS could, and would, be beaten.
Ultimately, my brief time with these inspiring individuals and organisations showed me that with a little training and resources, huge amounts can be achieved.