In Burkina Faso, women help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS

A group of women in Burkina Faso are seated beneath a tree, listening to another woman lead an HIV education session.
Women attend an HIV education session in Burkina Faso. (Photo: UNDP)

27-year old Assiétou was pregnant with her third child when she discovered that she is HIV positive.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” she recalls. “I immediately thought about my husband and I was very worried about his reaction. In the end, I summoned up all my courage and went to talk to him.”

Highlights

  • UNDP's PAMAC initiative has helped to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Burkina Faso from 7 percent in the 1990s, to 2 percent in 2007.
  • Under the initiative, 142 civil society groups and six national networks are working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.
  • Since January 2009, HIV/AIDS education sessions have reached some 150,680 people, more than half of whom are women.

Assiétou’s husband, Laouali, immediately agreed to go to a voluntary screening centre, where he found out that he is also HIV positive.

Today, they both receive free treatment from the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Support Programme for Associations and NGOs (Programme d’appui au monde associatif et communautaire), otherwise known as PAMAC.

The broad-based programme was set up by UNDP in 2003 at the request of Burkina Faso's National AIDS Council. It is made up of 142 civil society organizations and six national networks working to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.

This nationwide mobilisation has helped reduce the HIV and AIDS prevalence rate from 7 percent in the 1990s to 2 percent in 2007.

Assiétou was tested thanks to a group of women volunteers who are part of the PAMAC network, and who conduct informal discussions with people living in different villages about the risks of HIV.

They also organise plays and film screenings, followed by debates that raise issues such as the importance of wearing a condom, HIV testing and preventive action.

Assiétou and Laouali are among tens of thousands of Burkinabé who have benefited from PAMAC’s nationwide work to raise public awareness of HIV and AIDS.

Since January 2009, 175 women’s groups have participated in 1,345 educational sessions, and in total, the initiative has reached some 150,680 people, more than half of whom are women. 1,560 people have also received HIV screening tests, and 30 individuals who tested positive are currently receiving treatment in the areas covered by the women.

In addition to these advocacy efforts, in 2010, the PAMAC network also provided increased access to information, counseling, testing services, and home-based care to more than 74,000 HIV patients - almost half of whom are orphans and disadvantaged children.