Lesson on HIV/AIDS advocacy

Kober Prison inmate’s story



December 5, 2007

Kober Prison inmate educates fellow prisoners through HIV/AIDS prevention cartoons.

When Amir Suleiman was jailed at Kober Prison in Khartoum for bankruptcy last year, he did his best to avoid contact with the other inmates. But Amir, a 37-year-old father of three, soon realized his fellow inmates were much like himself – victims of circumstance – and he could use his writing and drawing skills to help them. Amir began drawing cartoons that teach prison inmates how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among prisoners has jumped 6 percent in the last five years.

Before prison, Amir lived in Gedarif state, about 400 kilometers from the capital, where he started his own business selling crops. Last year, his business fell into debt and he was jailed when he couldn’t pay back the 90,000 SDG he owed (about 45,000 US dollars).

As an educated accountant and businessman, Amir began to help illiterate inmates by reading and writing letters to their loved-ones. After attending a seminar on HIV/AIDS organized by the Khartoum-based NGO, Rufaida Health Foundation a few months ago, Amir noticed that his fellow inmates weren’t grasping all of the important information they needed to know in order to prevent contracting the disease, because they couldn’t easily read and understand the Power Point presentations and lectures.

Having already established a good relationship with the other inmates, Amir felt strongly that he had to help them understand this life-saving message. Amir thought that he could raise the inmates’ awareness of HIV/AIDS by using another type of advocacy: drawings, sketching, and cartoons. He asked the Foundation to provide him with colored pens and a drawing pad.

“I happen to love drawing and I am good at it. I thought “what if I drew cartoons that explain what HIV/AIDS is about and how to avoid getting affected by it?” I am well aware of the power of images and that’s why I asked the foundation to give me some colored pens and a drawing pad so that I could put all this information on HIV/AIDS on paper and sketch it,” Amir said.

Amir drew more than 20 cartoons that incorporated humor along with the much more serious messages often in dialectical Arabic. The Kober Prison administration posted the drawings in its clinic, and as soon as the Rufaida Foundation provides him with paint, brushes and other mural painting tools, Amir plans to paint these sketches on the Kober Prison’s walls.

“I will leave Kober Prison in about two months and I want inmates here to remember me. I’m glad that the Foundation brought this issue to th prison. They offered me this opportunity to help educate the guys here on their health and the health of their families. I’m sure they’ll always remember the guy who helped them learn more about this deadly disease.”

According to the 2002 National Survey conducted by the Sudan National Aids Program, prison settings contribute to the rapid spread of HIV infections. From a prevalence rate of 2% in 2002, new results indicate that the percentage of HIV/AIDS prevalence among prisoners has jumped to 8.63% in 2006. This alarming increase called for an immediate intervention.

In addition to raising awareness of the issue, the Rufaida Foundation provides Voluntary Counseling and Testing services, and distributes condoms inside prisons. The Foundation is one of the Sudanese NGOs being supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is managed by UNDP in Sudan.

The Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society and affected communities that was created in 2001 to finance a dramatic turn-around in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. To date, the Global Fund has committed US $9.9 billion in 136 countries to support aggressive interventions against all three diseases.

UNDP has been nominated by the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) in Sudan as the Principal Recipient to be legally responsible for grant proceeds and implementation. The Global Fund confirmed this nomination and a new partnership has been forged in 2003. UNDP’s Khartoum office is currently managing 4 grants of $US 243.4 million covering the period 2005- 2012, while the UNDP Juba office is managing 4 grants for Southern Sudan amounting to USD 94 million for the period 2004-2011.

In addition to being responsible for the programmatic and financial management of the Global Fund grants and the procurement of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis related items, UNDP cooperates with UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS and International NGOs (ACCORD and Christian Aid) to use their expertise in the implementation of HIV/AIDS interventions.

In an effort to build and develop the national capacity to fight HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, UNDP works with Sudan National AIDS Programme, National Malaria Control Programme, National Tuberculosis Programme, General Directorate of Pharmacy, People Living with HIV Association, and local NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS such as Rufaida, Lokita, Ana Sudan, and Sudan Family Planning Association.