Studio Samuel, our charity partner in Ethiopia, provides education & healthcare for vulnerable girls living in poverty. They celebrated World AIDS Day on December 1st and throughout the entire month. Their initiative focused on taking the first steps in breaking down the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS within their community.
Trained healthcare professionals from a local HIV/AIDS organization certified all 100 girls in Studio Samuel’s program. What does this mean?
- Students completed the necessary coursework and attended required HIV/AIDS presentations on contraception, how HIV is spread, how to live with HIV, misconceptions of the disease and more.
- Once certified, a student was eligible to receive an HIV test.
- Studio Samuel’s social workers met with the girls’ caregivers to receive permission for their student to be tested, explaining that measures were in place for anyone testing positive.
ALL 25 students in our first graduating class were granted approval from her caregiver/guardian to receive an HIV test. Due to the stigma around HIV/AIDS in developing countries, this was a significant accomplishment. EVERY girl tested negative! (An additional 75 incoming students completed certification training and are prepared for testing later this year.)
The majority of students live with one or more HIV+ family members or caregivers. Many assumed they were positive, but until now, their strategy was to not know. You could feel this in the air as they waited to be tested. However, through proper communication, peer support and education on HIV, students learned this is a manageable disease. You can protect yourself from it. You can also live with it.
After receiving results, students expressed a feeling of ‘a new life’ and ‘starting fresh’. There were many, many smiles! – one more element in breaking her poverty cycle.
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