100 girls at Studio Samuel are now certified in HIV/AIDS awareness and the first class of 25 agreed to an HIV test! The power of communication and knowledge are breaking down a long-lived stigma.

hiv-1

Many in our community suffer from HIV/AIDS, including girls’ caregivers, family members, teachers, shopkeepers, friends and more. It’s become a normal part of their world, yet one that is rarely discussed, often due to the stigma associated with being HIV positive. Being tested is an even bigger challenge.

One goal within our healthcare program is to chip away at that stigma. The plan is two-fold and starts with communication. Let’s get people talking about HIV, starting with the younger generation. An open dialogue in a safe environment with skilled professionals from within the community has been a great first step. This is followed by participants understanding the benefits of being tested, the second step.

hiv-3Healthcare has been at the core of our programming since the beginning. Through the support of The White Feather Foundation and Ethiopia Healthcare Network, we’re now aligned with one of the most reputable organizations in Ethiopia for AIDS awareness – OSSHD (Org for Social Services Health & Development).

Prior to a student receiving an HIV test, she must have completed OSSHD’s two-day intense workshop. Upon completion, each student receives a certificate and is eligible for an HIV test, to be administered by an OSSHD nurse. If under 18, the student’s caregiver/guardian must consent for the test.

Many girls enter OSSHD’s workshop very shy, skeptical and a bit frightened of testing. It’s all the unknown. They exit the training understanding that HIV/AIDS is a manageable disease once you know the facts. This positive energy and communication continues with her, into her home as she shares it with caregivers and family members. Our students are now using their voices to raise awareness in their community.

hiv-2OSSHD nurses and team members have certified all 100 students at our training center throughout 2016, wrapping up the final group last weekend. The first 25 girls will receive an HIV test this weekend. YES, each girl from that class is being tested. None declined! This is the power of communication and knowledge.

In closing, steps are in place for any student testing positive, including counseling, treatment and more. There will be no images shared from next week’s testing. Pictures shared here are from our general certification training.

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