Meeting with refugees about HIV
Report on HIV/ Aids programme amongst refugees in Kampala Uganda
Many refugees living in Uganda come from countries where the campaigns against HIV/ Aids have not yet reached all people because these countries are at wars. Actually 85% of refugees come from these countries which have fresh wars such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia. When refugees come to Uganda which is one among the countries which are highly infected by the HIV/AIDs they face all kinds of humanitarian assistance problems which leave them with one option to save their lives and that is to get engaged into commercial sex.
On top of that, information about HIV/AIDs in Uganda is in languages which are not known by refugees and this has created another gap to access information. As consequences many refugees are currently victims of HIV/AIDs which is a myth in refugee communities.
No one can say that he/she is HIV positive or not even to mention that a person who has died was HIV positive. The refugee cultures rooted into religious beliefs prohibits talking about HIV because it is seen as promoting sexuality which is not supposed to be talked in public.
2. PPDR response to fight HIV/ AIDs amongst refugees
In 2012 a group of 4 people members of PPDR started collecting information on the number of refugees who were dying and managed to find out that a big number was HIV positive but despite this fact the close friends or the family members knew about this, still they could not talk about it. We realized that 18 people out 27 refugees who died were HIV Positive. This prompted us to start the HIV/ AIDs campaign targeting all migrants and refugees in Uganda currently.
To create awareness amongst refugees on the existence of HIV/ AIDs and challenge the traditional and religious beliefs,
To build up connections and networks with existing HIV/ AIDs Centers in Uganda and fight against discrimination towards refugees in these existing centers,
To advocate for a policy from the refugee regime which puts a priority in the fight against HIV/ AIDs amongst refugees,
4. How did we start?
When we realized this problem, we were confronted to number of questions but it needed someone with a leadership skill to take risk of talking about prohibited things like this. Refugee members of PPDR have since then mobilized themselves to contribute some money to support the activity. In order to meet people and convince them to listen to us we have to buy them soft drinks and snacks and this has helped us to attract a number of refugees. And it is through that passion of some people being fully aware of their responsibility towards the wellbeing of the whole community that refugee members of PPDR have opted to some sacrifice of their time, their personal development and their little money they have for the sake of others.
Information sessions at the office of PPDR Uganda: Through the connection with AIDs Information Center we have managed to organize regular information session with students who come for Adults Education, help them to do HIV/ Testing and counseling,
Drama and Music shows: In order to pass through the message to people we have organized drama and concerts where refugees come and watch and from there we have passed messages about HIV/ AIDs,
Celebrating big days: We have organized international big days talking about violence against women, gender issues in order to attract the attention of refugees on the reality of HIV/ AIDs and we have also joined other NGOs here to celebrate HIV/ Aids days so that refugees can learn from there.
We have realized that information is power and the access to information can change the ways of looking at things and behavior,
Number of people who have attended our programmes have greatly changed and now are our advocates amongst their fellow refugees where we cannot reach,
The distribution of condoms from our offices and the speed in which the box of condoms is finished,
The access to HIV/ AIDs testing through AIDs information Center even though it is still limited to those who can afford to pay for it,
The desire of refugees to be tested in order to know their HIV/ AIDs status when they have the opportunity,
The change of mentality amongst women, some have openly started telling people that they live on commercial sex,
Much as we have moved in this venture we have experienced number of challenges as following:
Number of our volunteers who are struggling refugees themselves work more than 14 hours per day are not paid or not even facilitated, this has demoralized some among them,
Refugee religious leaders look at us as promoting prostitution among refugees and have not yet supported us despite our call to ask them to do so,
We have only reached a few refugees who come to our center and those who are nearby the office because in Kampala we need funds to carry out the campaigns,
Lack of support from the refugee regime mainly the Uganda Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees. There is a gap between the refugee regime and refugees, what is seen as priority by the regime is not necessary the same to refugees,
Lack of funds despite the fact that we have struggle to get this opportunity through GlobalGiving still we have no money to ran the programme,
Highly discrimination against refugees both on national level and on global level as refugees are regarded as sub-human being and very few wish to know or to be concerned about the situation of refugees. Many say “we don’t deal with refugees” this makes service to be provided basing on the identity of someone but not on the problem of that person. In other who are you instead of what is your problem.
We have this only donation through Global Giving where people can support us,
We have 4 refugees who are strongly engaged in the campaign against HIV/ AIDs and can do a great job,
The number of refugee dying directly with the consequences of HIV/AIDs is growing and can be used as a tool to change the religious and cultural beliefs and also can be used to make pressure on refugee leaders to look at HIV as priority,
The only threats we are facing currently is the lack of funds which will make this programme not to continue and reach as many people as possible,
For this programme to move well and save the lives of many refugees we need two major actors per now, the donors who will support us financially and the team of PPDR which will do the work and as we speak now this team is already on ground doing the work. They only now need the support from the donors.
Students at PPDR after an information session
Drama and music perfomance
Marching during the public campaign against HIV