Community organizations key to fighting HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso

06 May 2010

On the last day of her official visit to Burkina Faso, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited one of 176 UNDP supported community HIV/AIDS associations and spoke with sex workers about their concerns for the future.

“With HIV/AIDS you can never be complacent,” said Helen Clark.  “Burkina Faso has a very large young population, and young populations need to hear the messages about how to prevent HIV/AIDS.  So the objective for the future must be no new infections, no mother to child transmission, and support to those who are living with HIV/AIDS.”

The youth volunteer organization ATUJB (Association Trait d’Union des Jeunes Burkinabé) in Ouagadougou provides voluntary testing and counseling, psychosocial support, and income generating activities to people living with HIV/AIDS. One of their main target groups are sex workers, among them Jennifer from Nigeria. She was only 16 years when poverty forced her out of her native Nigeria, leaving a family and many young sisters behind. She thought she was heading for a better future as a house maid in Europe but ended up in Ouagadougou where she has been a sex worker the last nine years.
  
“This is not something you want to do for a living. We all want to leave this profession,” she said.

Jennifer is now a peer educator and talks to other girls about how to avoid getting infected and the importance of using condoms. Thanks to a microcredit given by the association, she has set up a hair salon.

“We have been talking to them about the possibility of providing micro-credit to enable them to start their own small business activities,” said Helen Clark.

The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso has dropped from 7 percent in 2002 to 1.6% in 2008, one of the lowest rates in West Africa. Despite this progress, the country still faces an epidemic affecting women between 15 and 24 years old.

UNDP supports civil society organisations like ATUJB through the National Assistance programme to Communities and Associations in HIV/AIDS launched by UNDP in 2003 after a request by the National Aids Council. This programme provides training to civil society workers, and through its 182 associations it has reached out with prevention activities to 3 million people during the last five years. 80 percent of all HIV test are today conducted by civil society organisation and nearly 36,000 people living with HIV get regular support by through home visits, common meals, and support to set up their own small scale enterprises.