By Matt Morrison
It’s one of the leading causes of death in Africa, casting a shadow over the economic and political systems across the continent. The HIV/AIDS crisis has reached a boiling point. While Africa only comprises 15% of the world population, over 70% of cases globally come from the region. In Malawi alone, 1 in 10 children have been orphaned by the disease.
There are many factors contributing to the outbreak. Old community sexual rituals spread the disease, along with an ongoing epidemic of rape and other forms of sexual violence. To make matters worse, the social stigma is so great that many women fail to get tested out of fear for the results.
In Tanzania, where 1.6 million people live with HIV, the government provides free medication to anyone who tests positive, offering the opportunity for a full life to those who take advantage of it. Still, millions die untested or untreated.
In the Tanzanian village of Miseki, a group of women have banded together to fight back against the disease’s hold on their community. They call themselves The Hope Group. After watching so many of their friends and neighbors die from AIDS, the group of 50 women went together to get tested and chose to support each other through the journey of living with HIV.
Of the original 50, only 13 women remain. But they’re doing more than just surviving. They’re transforming their village by serving those around them and providing for their families. They raise chickens, farm, make clay pots, and sell charcoal. The women even recently began a savings and credit group. Roughly 10% of income from the venture goes to supporting orphans, many of whom lost their own parents to AIDS, with school supplies and food. They even share produce from their gardens with the poor women in the community.
e3 Partners met these women in 2011 when the Community Transformation team began working across the wider Mugumu region. As the people identify needs within their villages, the team partners with the churches and the community to provide education and develop sustainable solutions.
While the temptation is to believe populations like these are helpless, these women prove otherwise. When trained and released to make a difference, they’re able to do what no outside NGO or government could possibly accomplish. God is using these women to end the stigma created by HIV/AIDS while caring for their families and improving the lives of those around them.
Click here to learn more and get involved with groups like these.