The incidence of HIV/AIDS in Niger is relatively low - just over 1% and the proportion of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS is less than 4% of all orphans. There is work to be done to prevent the transmission of AIDS from mothers to their children.
SOS Children has been working in Namibia since 1993 and has a Family Strengthening Programme that supports families in the local community near the SOS Children’s Village. The programme includes supporting the education of vulnerable children, providing food to families and visiting these families to make sure that children are eating well, are going to school and that those who are diagnosed HIV positive have the necessary drugs. Women whose husbands have died of AIDS are trained in income-generating activities so that they can care for themselves and their families.
SOS CHILDREN AND AIDS ORPHANS
Ahmadou is an AIDS orphan. He was enrolled on a welding course. When he completed his course, he received financial support to help him start his own business. "Once I start working, the money I will make will help me support my small brothers and sisters. I will be able to pay for their schooling, for their food and for their clothes", he said, while collecting the iron fragments which were lying here and there. "I have wanted to go to school or attend a training course for five years, but it was impossible. The more time passed, the more difficult the situation was to deal with. I feel really relieved now", he added.
Sanou, eight years old, was also identified as a vulnerable AIDS orphan. Since the death of her parents she was living with her aunt who could not afford to send her to school. Thanks to the family strengthening programme, she was able to return to school. SOS Children registered her in a local school, provided her with books, stationery, school and uniform and also paid her school fees.
For Moussa, aged 14 years, the family strengthening programme came just in time. "Both of my parents died within six months. I had no hope of going to school because I knew there will be nobody to pay my school fees. Thanks to SOS Children's Villages, I was able to go to school and I am very happy because I will take the entrance examination which will enable me to go to the secondary school next year", he said.
SOS “ANTI-AIDS CLUB” IN NIGER
Young people from the SOS Children's Village Niamey in Niger formed the "Anti-AIDS Club" for children and young people. The club focuses on spreading information on and raising awareness of HIV/AIDS.
"Our society is young and I think that we, the youths, have our own role to play in the fight against plagues like HIV/AIDS. There are people who still deny the existence of AIDS, so we want to make ourselves useful by telling them to be careful because AIDS is a dangerous disease which really exists and kills", said Ali, the club president. "It must not be ignored. Nowadays, it is covered in all media. People just need to listen closely", he added.
Members of the Anti-AIDS Club are girls and boys aged between 10 and 22. The club works with UNICEF and other NGO's working in the field of AIDS prevention and the care for those diagnosed positive. The target group includes sexually active people from the area surrounding the SOS Children's Village. The club promotes the fight against HIV/AIDS and raises awareness of the dangers connected to the disease, particularly among their own age group.
One of the big challenges for the club members is to cross barriers created by cultural taboos and religious beliefs. "People feel uncomfortable to talk about sexuality as it is not openly discussed in our culture, not even by young people. In addition, AIDS is seen as a sickness connected to shame", said 17-year-old Leila.
People diagnosed positive are invited to talk about their personal experience of living with the virus. "Inviting them to some of our activities is very important to us because people living with AIDS are frequently discriminated against as soon as others know that they are ill. We want to encourage society to be supportive towards them because we have to assist them and give them the support they need", said 20-year-old Abdoulaziz.
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