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Creating Community Support to Combat AIDS in Uganda


The AIDS/HIV Integrated Model District Programme (AIM) is building the capacity of Ugandans to combat AIDS. AIM was launched in 2001 to bring together all those working in selected districts to help local health organizations bridge any gaps in services and improve performance to better meet the needs of Ugandans infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. The AIM Programme is a Ugandan project funded by USAID and CDC and is being implemented by JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. and its partners, World Education and World Learning.

When her husband died after a long illness in 1995, Joyce Margaret Igoru was left alone with her 9 month old baby. Her husband's family rejected her and took everything she owned, including her house, because they assumed that she, too, would soon be dead. At age 23, Joyce Margaret was forced to move back to her parent's homestead in Arapai, Soroti District, Uganda.

Shortly after she'd moved back to her parents', she decided to go to Soroti town where a mobile van from the AIDS Information Centre (AIC) to offer VCT. She asked for a blood test because, suspecting her husband died of HIV, she wanted to know if she had contracted the virus. When she found out that she was HIV positive, Joyce Margaret fell into despair. Other villagers had mentioned that there was a local group, the Teso AIDS Project (TAP), which might be able to help.

Joyce Margaret Igoru and her 
                                    son, Joshua, outside her house in Arapai, 
                                    Soroti District, Uganda
Joyce Margaret Igoru and her son, Joshua, outside her house in Arapai, Soroti District, Uganda. Joyce Margaret has become a resource for her community since becoming a member of the Teso AIDS Project in 1995.

She traveled the 8km to TAP to learn more about her illness. TAP gave Joyce Margaret the information she needed to live her life as a woman infected with HIV. They discussed nutrition and the need for rest. They talked to her about how the disease is transmitted, and urged her to remain abstinent. They also gave her materials, including a school uniform for her son, and a garden hoe and goats that enable her to remain self-sufficient. Joyce Margaret took the lessons TAP had taught her back to her village. She wasn't afraid to speak out about her illness and talked with the other women there. When they asked her questions about the disease she couldn't answer, she took them to her next meeting at TAP. She has been able to maintain a positive outlook, and recognizing this, TAP invited Joyce Margaret to join their board to represent someone living with HIV. Through all this, she has remained relatively healthy.

Joyce Margaret talks with 
                                    members of TAP and a village leader at her 
                                    house in Arapai Soroti
Joyce Margaret talks with members of TAP and a village leader at her house in Arapai Soroti.

The Teso AIDS Project has served hundreds of women like Joyce Margaret, as well as AIDS orphans and families affected by the disease since 1991. Entirely dependent on donations, TAP has at times provided food and seeds to affected families and serves as an AIDS information resource for its members. The USAID and CDC-funded AIM Project is working with TAP to assist in providing some of the resources they depend on. AIM will be conducting voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) training with TAP volunteers and help TAP develop a testing system. TAP has also asked for assistance in working with those who care for AIDS patients in their homes as well as help in advocating for widows' and orphans' rights.

Despite limited resources, TAP continues to provide counseling and support to as many people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS as they can. Like Joyce Margaret Igoru, many have in turn become educators in their villages and respected resources for their communities.


© 2004 AIM/Uganda
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