Stephen Lewis Foundation
Support group for women with HIV/AIDS.
In many parts of the world it takes strength, willingness and openness to disclose one’s health status. It is especially difficult in cultures and societies where HIV and AIDS are considered taboo.
In 2005, two HIV-positive women walked into CPAR’s office in Tanzania and asked for information on HIV treatment options and about coping with the disease. Due to the significant amount of stigma surrounding HIV across Tanzania, CPAR staff was impressed by the openness and forthcoming nature of these women. CPAR sensed an opportunity and, along with the generous support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, UMATU (Upendo na Matumaini, meaning love and hope) was formed.
CPAR opened its office to these two women and they formed a support group that met weekly to participate in information sessions led by CPAR staff. These sessions covered a variety of topics, including proper nutrition, anti-retroviral therapy, the risks and treatment of opportunistic infections, sexual and reproductive rights, human rights and gender. Emboldened by their improved understanding of HIV and motivated to make a difference in their community, the members of UMATU decided to go public with their positive status during World AIDS week in December 2006.
Since then, UMATU’s membership, strength and visibility have grown. With financial support from the Stephen Lewis Foundation over the past six years, UMATU has evolved from a support group for HIV-positive women into an advocacy group that provides community education and counselling on how to live positively with HIV and prevent its spread.
UMATU has inspired the formation of many other groups for people living with HIV, including UMATU B, founded in Tanzania’s Bunda District two years ago. Since its inception ten years ago, UMATU has continued to serve as an agent of change in East African communities affected by HIV.
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