Life with dignity, and HIV/AIDS

Almost a year ago, members of the Ntembo People Living with HIV/AIDS self-help group held a meeting to decide who would receive a loan generated by earnings on their “solidarity fund.” They chose a mother of three called Mama Antho, and gave her the equivalent of about US$500.

Two women stand in front of large white sacks filled with soya beans.

Mama Antho and a friend in the shop. Photo: Melanie Coyne/International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Mama Antho and the other members of the Ntembo self-help group live in the Bas-Congo region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of five HIV hotspots across the country where the Integrated HIV/AIDS Project, called ProVIC, is working to help people affected by HIV help themselves. The community-based project is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the US Agency for International Development. PATH leads its consortium of partners, which includes several local nongovernmental organizations as well as international groups like the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

ProVIC’s strategy hinges on helping communities organize to link people with the services they need. That might mean HIV testing and counseling, or access to medicines and services that help mothers avoid transmitting HIV to their newborns. It includes efforts to support and strengthen a health care system that’s emerging after years of conflict and government collapse. And it means promoting self-help groups like Ntembo, who with ProVIC’s help come together to support each other with services such as palliative care, nutritional counseling, and, as in Mama Antho’s case, income generation.

Buy for $4, sell for $6

After Mama Antho accepted her start-up loan, she established a small shop in a busy part of Bas-Congo’s capital city and began buying bags of soya beans. Her cost: about $4 a bag. Customers who kept pigs began to visit Mama Antho’s shop to buy her soya beans as feed. Their price: about $6 a bag.

“Business,” says Mama Antho, “is good!”

Mama Antho’s business earnings have given her family a better life. She’s able now to serve her children more nutritious meals, pay for their dental care, and send them to school. “My children are much happier because they thought their education would have to end,” she says proudly. “Now they will complete their studies.”

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