From the beginning, Uganda Village Project has worked to address health issues surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Iganga District. We have conducted HIV prevention education projects, held free HIV testing clinics, and worked to support initiatives in peer education on the topic of HIV/AIDS.
Our summer Heathy Village volunteer teams hold outreaches where they go cover basic information on transmission, symptoms, and treatment of HIV/AIDS. We often bring in local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who hold massive music, drama and dance performances educating the community about HIV/AIDS. These outreach performances are greatly loved by the village communities, especially as UVP makes an effort to use local groups, so that the actors and musicians are often neighbors to the spectators.
Many of our summer volunteer teams help secondary schools near to Healthy Villages set up HIV/AIDS clubs. Sometimes these clubs exist already, and our teams then work further to educate or provide resources to the clubs. One of our Ugandan volunteers works with these school clubs year round, helping them to write and perform outreaches involving music, drama, and dance, focused on HIV/AIDS education. These clubs may perform for other secondary schools, local primary schools, or for their village communities.
Throughout the years that we work in a village, UVP continues to bring in HIV/AIDS educational outreaches, as well as periodic testing days. Healthy Village Teams (VHTs) also continue to sensitize the community about HIV/AIDS, as well as connecting individuals who wish to get tested or to obtain ARVs to the nearest places to do so.
Some Village Health Teams distribute condoms to their village. Condoms can often be obtained free of charge from a local Health Center, or from an NGO like Family Planning Iganga. Sometimes VHT members pick them up the condoms themselves, but if the location is far and transport expensive, UVP may pick up condoms and then give them to a VHT member to distribute.
Many villagers in Iganga do not know their HIV status due to fear, stigma, or cost of travel. Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are free, however, for those villagers who test positive.
We partner with local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or local Health Centers to bring HIV testing into most Healthy Villages, for those villagers who do wish to be tested. We often partner with a Ugandan NGO called St. Mary’s to offer the testing in our Healthy Villages. St. Mary’s provides pre- and post-test counseling, for those who test both positive and negative. It also refers all positive individuals to an NGO called TASO (founded in Uganda, and now spread across East Africa), which provides further counseling and free ARVs for a small, annual ‘membership’ fee.