Those affected with HIV face a number of challenges due to discrimination, stigmatization and often, single-parenthood. Because frequent illness can disrupt the daily routines of working women and men, contracting HIV can result in the loss of a livelihood – placing families and individuals at risk of decreased health, worsening poverty and death. To help clients support themselves, Alive Medical Services (AMS) has established a number of income-generating and support groups for HIV-positive patients.
Tweyambe is a client-led support and finance group made of 150 men, women, and children. Tweyambe members combine their funds into a rotating savings scheme, which provides loans to members in need of additional income. The group began when seven clients realized they could better create opportunities for themselves together than they could alone. The members of Tweyambe strive to be self-reliant and to promote positive living for themselves, their families, and their communities.
If you visit Alive, ask about their current projects. Sales in the past have included jewellery, scarves, basket, and other arts and crafts. The group holds monthly meetings to keep one another engaged and active.
Bulamu Kwefaako (Kapeeka)
The Bulamu Kwefaako support group exists to bring the services of AMS closer to their own community. Based in Kapeeka – a town in Luwero district – Bulamu Kwefaako was formed after a group of residents realized they were all struggling to engage in Tweyambe due to geographical restraints. As a result, they began their own group. Bulamu Kwefaako members conduct home visits, counsel HIV-positive individuals, and raise awareness on HIV and opportunistic infections. Additionally, they support one another in income-generating activities, such as animal husbandry and crop farming.
Kisakye, an income-generating group that sews reusable sanitary pads (also known as Super Kits), has been active at AMS since 2015. The sanitary pads Kisakye women create are sold in the local community, and purchased and donated by AMS to be given to vulnerable populations, including other AMS clients. By sewing these kits, Kisakye women have a direct hand in helping disadvantaged women and girls continue attending work and school during menstruation. During the first half of 2017, the Kisakye group produced 200 Super Kits, of which each can last up to three years.
AMS provides start-up and maintenance support to 18 gardening clubs, all of which are made up of HIV-positive patients. We empower the members of these clubs with skills around gardening and cultivating skills, the value of nutritious foods, and marketing their produce to the local communities. Every week, these groups set up stalls at AMS to sell their produce to other clients and AMS staff.
Kawgalana is a similarly structured income-generating group, whereby women gather to make beaded bracelets. By selling these bracelets to the local community, women are boosting their income and providing each other with support and friendship while they work.