From the Worldwide Faith News archives

AIDS program in Uganda shows positive results

Date 22 Oct 1998 06:55:07

LWF aid program provides information and generates income

GENEVA, 19 October 1998 (lwi) - A group set up by the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) has ranked the Uganda programs as being among the most
successful projects to combat the ramifications of the AIDS pandemic. In
the course of an evaluation conducted in July and August of this year, the
four-member group noted that the goals set when the projects were launched
in 1995 had been well attained.

The LWF support concentrates on Rakai district in Uganda's southwest, one
of the areas hardest hit by AIDS. The transmission of the disease is due to
several factors. Primary among them are the underdevelopment of the region
and the overwhelming poverty of the people living there. Many women, devoid
of any sources of income, prostitute themselves. Also, certain traditional
family structures that allow brothers to share wives favor transmission
within families.

The LWF program aims at slowing down transmission of the HIV virus within 
families, alleviating the consequences of the disease and combating poverty
by setting up self-help groups and communities in the villages. This is
done by sexual information and education, teaching about the nature and the
transmission of the disease and about the necessary change in behavior and
habits, by providing counseling on medical and social issues as well as by
home care and counseling of those affected and their families. Moreover,
legal aid for widows and orphans is provided since, according to
traditional patriarchal law, in the case of the death of the head of a
family, all property is claimed by the husband's clan, with the result that
the wife and children lose home and landed property and are left entirely
without means.

Statistics indicate that the life expectancy of the population in Uganda,
now at 60, will have dropped to 40 years by the year 2010. The pandemic has
destroyed functioning family and kinship structures. Many households are
headed by children who look after their younger siblings and their fatally
ill parents.

Sexual education is destined mainly for schoolchildren and young people who
in the future might risk infection. Within the framework of the program,
580 persons in all were trained as professional and volunteer counselors:
168 teachers, 150 midwives, who in particular reach young women not
enrolled in schools, as well as 112 young people who have access to
children not going to school.

The counselors reached about 3,000 people during 1997, including over a
thousand people with AIDS, 214 child-headed households, family members of
recently bereaved and pre-test clients.

For income-generating purposes the program initiated various agricultural
and artisanal projects. They are implemented by 68 village communities and
by 207 self-help groups consisting of HIV-infected persons or members of
their families. The communities usually headed by women are engaged in
cattle, poultry and rabbit breeding, or in planting and processing
different types of fruit such as pineapples, bananas, papayas and mangoes.
There is a lucrative market for dried fruit. Young people are trained in
various trades, such as carpentry, blacksmithery, bicycle repairs and
brick-making. Meanwhile, several of the self-help groups who have been able
to accumulate enough savings, bought land of their own and thus helped 248
of the poorest widows and 98 young people.

Close cooperation exists with the district government and administration,
the local Ugandan church and an indigenous non-governmental organization,
Rakai Counselors' Association. If all goes according to plan, this
organization will later take over ownership of the program.

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Lutheran World Information
Editorial Assistant: Janet Bond-Nash

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