Today, 1st December, is World AIDS Day. To mark the day, Survivors Fund (SURF) is raising awareness of the situation of women survivors of genocide living with HIV and AIDS in Rwanda. Through funding from Comic Relief, Survivors Fund (SURF) is supporting over 2,000 HIV+ women survivors in membership of AVEGA and Solace Ministries through the HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP).
We published last month our annual review of SIP which despite many challenges is progressing well. However, it is through the stories of individual survivors that it is best possible to convey the success of the work.
One story of note is that of Esperance Mukandemezo of AVEGA Eastern Region. Her weight and her CD4 count had fallen to 250 (a level of 500+ is considered normal, and below 200 an individual is diagnosed with AIDS) before the start of SIP in summer 2010, and she had lost hope for the future. However, through SIP she was provided with support and accompaniment to ensure that she continued to receive the antiretroviral treatment she needed from her local public health clinic. She also is now part of an active group of HIV+ women survivors that have formed themselves into a group that will work together to develop a small business idea.
Esperance has assumed a position of leadership in the association, undertaking the three month training programme developed by SURF for this project which provides the essentials of how to start up and run a business.
She is now keen to prove herself as an entrepreneur and is currently leading the development of a new business idea, and providing support to other women in her group, in particular those who are illiterate. She has learnt how to register and manage her property through the training on form filling, and she is now well on her way to learn how to be a bookkeeper as well.
She is a model for what we are hoping to achieve through the project, not only developing the confidence to successfully integrate and to learn the skills to develop a sustainable livelihood but also helping and supporting others less strong than herself to do so as well.
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children.