“The most significant demographic impact of HIV occurs in sub-Saharan Africa.” (UNAIDS Global Report 2008)
Fighting HIV/AIDS and other contagious disease is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which aim to halve poverty and broadly improve welfare by the year 2015. Yet, this global pandemic has continuously led to as many deaths as those caused by conflict and natural disaster, thereby hampering development.
Currently an estimated 22 million people including about 1.9 million people who were newly infected with HIV in 2007 live with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. In other words, two thirds (67%) of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV live in this region and three quarters (75%) of all AIDS deaths occur within African continent.
When people are displaced from their country of origin or within the borders of their respective country, their lives are overturned, social norms are disrupted and access to basic needs becomes difficult. This has an enormous effect on their lives and the lives of host communities, often bringing a sense of powerlessness, poverty, and social instability. In such a context the risk of sexually transmitted infection and HIV/AIDS is exacerbated, as people can lack the information, preventatives, treatment, care and support that they need. Moreover, without having a political voice, displaced populations are easily targeted by the virulent prejudice and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. According to UNHCR, “the ravages of the HIV epidemic in the refugee camps in terms of social and medical consequences and its death toll outweigh those of any other single disease.”
However this situation is avoidable if the right services are put in place and populations sensitised and equipped to battle the disease.
HIV is a biological entity that is responsive to medical interventions, but the epidemic has continued to expand, largely due to the failure to tackle societal conditions that increase HIV risk and vulnerability. Therefore, AHA works towards solving societal factors that affect HIV risk and vulnerability, including gender inequality and the lack of empowerment of women and girls, discrimination, stigma, and social marginalization.
AHA is dedicated to providing the necessary information and services to enable and empower vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS. Prevention and community mobilization are key to our work and we run many programs to this end. Activities include: information, education and communication campaigns (IEC), awareness raising sessions, anti-AIDS clubs, peer education programs, sensitisation campaigns, youth programs, and condom distribution. To compliment such activities we produce outreach materials, set up resource centres, and host events and support outreach activities such as drama, poetry and music presentations.
As a specialist in healthcare AHA provides communities with a broad spectrum of medical, support and care services, recognizing the physical, social and psychological effects of HIV/AIDS. We promote and deliver voluntary counselling and testing, prevention of mother to child transmission, reproductive health services, necessary STI/HIV/AIDS treatment, medical referrals and home based care. We believe that people with AIDS deserve to live as healthy and positive a life as possible and work with individuals and communities to achieve this goal. We run numerous programs for people living with AIDS, providing training for home based carers (often family members), supporting income generating activities and promoting community awareness and understanding.
The participation of assisted populations and local/community based organizations is essential to AHA, in order to maximise the impact and sustainability of our work. For this reason much time and effort is spent on capacity development; delivering training, strengthening resources, integrating services and advocating for greater opportunity and empowerment.