Tackling HIV: Strengthening communities in Ethiopia

Our project in Ethiopia supports community organisations to provide quality HIV and AIDS care and information to older people and their families.

The impact of HIV and AIDS

Volunteer home carers take a break in Ethiopia Volunteer home carers take a break in Ethiopia (c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge International Kolfe Keranio is a poor area dominated by slum dwellings that has suffered heavily from the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

The death of working parents has meant the number of orphaned children in the community has increased dramatically, while older people are left with no family to support them at a time of increasing frailty and economic insecurity.

Burayou Oramiya region has a large number of truck drivers passing through and as such has high levels of sex work. It too faces a severe HIV crisis.

How we're tackling HIV

Despite the challenging conditions, civil society in Kolfe Keranio and Burayou is vibrant and there are a range of organisations dedicated to developing their communities.

Iddirs began as traditional burial societies and are an important social group in Ethiopia. Now they provide a range of services and when strengthened, can provide quality home-based information to people living with HIV and AIDS and their families.

This project takes 150 people from 15 iddirs each year and trains them to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS with information specifically for older people, and how to provide basic support and counselling.

Trainees are also taught about older people's benefits and entitlements − information they can share in their communities.

In addition two people from each of 75 iddirs are being trained as home-based carers, meaning a total of 150 carers will be trained over a five-year period.

This project is carried out by our partner TESFA Social and Development Association (TSDA), a federation of not-for-profit community organisations and iddirs.

Project aims (2008-2013)

  • To strengthen 75 iddirs, 25 community-based organisations and ten youth groups.
  • To train 150 people in HIV awareness from 75 iddirs each year.
  • Each trained iddir member could provide support for around 15 households a year so 33,750 households should benefit from the services.
  • Each iddir has about 500 members so 37,000 iddir members have the potential to benefit from provision of HIV and AIDS information.
  • To train 150 people as home-based carers.
  • To provide monthly cash transfers to 120 of the most vulnerable multi-generational households to help pay for medication and basic necessities.

    Colonel Belete: Older people find it easier to talk about HIV

    Colonel Belete Col Dubale Belete discusses HIV prevention with a group of older people. (c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge International Colonel Dubale Belete is 65 and was trained as a peer educator two  years ago.

    He says: "I wanted to become a peer educator to have more information about HIV and to know
    my status.

    "I know a lot of older people around me with HIV. I enjoy discussing
    HIV and AIDS with people.

    "I will usually accompany them for counselling and testing too, because
    many people don't want to go by themselves. It makes me happy to know that I can speak to someone and they take it seriously and decide to have a test. I always carry my notes in my pocket about the ways in which HIV is transmitted.

    "There are many older people who test positive for HIV. HIV and AIDS awareness does not usually get to older people. That's why I think it is important to give older people information about HIV and AIDS and persuade them to go for testing.

    "I usually advise people about how HIV is transmitted, how to prevent HIV and persuade them to go for testing. If they want, then I go with them for the test.

    "I go to at least five new people every month and visit them in their homes. I see them at least two or three times before we talk about going for a test.

    "I am only one of 270 peer educators here at TESFA, so we reach many people together. Each of us sees five new people every month. In earlier times it was very difficult to talk to people about HIV and AIDS in Ethiopia. Now it is much easier. Older people are not as scared as they used to be.

    "Normally, a counselling session will be about the ways HIV can be transmitted, then I talk a little bit about the symptoms of someone living with HIV or AIDS.

    "After that I speak about how important it is for people living with HIV to have clean and hygienic living conditions so they don't get sick as often. Lastly, I talk about the stigma and discrimination and answer any questions people have about living with HIV and AIDS."

    For more project pictures, click the gallery

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