Improving the lives and Livelihoods of PLHIV in Yala LGA of Cross River State
Stigma, discrimination and poverty are some of the greatest challenges facing people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in Yala Community, Cross River State and elsewhere. The USAID funded and FHI360 led Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS) project works to mitigate these challenges and improve the quality of life of PLHIV and people affected by AIDS (PABA) through care and support activities. The Areya support group plays an integral role in providing care and support services to PLHIV in Yala and through the SIDHAS project the group benefits from activities aimed at improving their overall health, wellbeing and livelihood.
In line with efforts to improve livelihoods and promote economic independence among PLHIVs and PABAs, the SIDHAS project trained 45 PLHIV and PABA households in the Areya support group in May 2015. Garri production was identified as a training need since Yala is a garri processing hub with an already established market. In addition to garri processing, participants acquired economic empowerment skills such as financial management and received technical assistance needed to establish and manage a cooperative business. Finally, participants were supplied with materials to enable them to start-up small income generating activities for self-reliance.
After the training, members of Areya support group, established a cooperative and commenced cassava farming. The farm land was leased to Areya at no cost as a result of advocacy visits to village leaders led by Daughters of Mary Sons of Joseph (DOMSOJ), a community based organization (CBO) supported by SIDHAS project and working in Yala. Proceeds from the farm are used to cater for the needs of the support group members, their dependents and also to sustain the Areya Support Group Cooperative. The cooperative began harvesting cassava in January 2016 and are already earning an estimated monthly profit of NGN 35,000 ($175).
Due to improvements in their socio-economic status, these PLHIVs and PABAs are now climbing out of poverty and overcoming stigma and discrimination through their contributions to the needs of their community.
Formerly dependent on families and friends, hope has come alive for members of the Areya support group, who are now seen by community members as a force to reckon with. In the words of Mr. John Ogar Ebriku, Areya support group chairman, “community members didn’t see any future in us because of our HIV status. We were seen as sickly and dependent. Thanks to the SIDHAS project economic strengthening initiative, we have now become a group that even non PLHIV want to identify with and be part of”.