As partners of Oxfam GB, Gladys Bamboola and Mama Rose Thamae recently took part in the 'Red Ribbons and Women's Rights’ event co-organised by the charity at the 53rd Session of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women in New York. There they spoke about the progress made in realising the rights and freedoms of poor and marginalised women in the context of the HIV epidemic.
Oxfam GB arranged for the women to further share their experiences with the Department for International Development and other organisations in the UK, including the Alliance.
“We are honoured to have had this unique opportunity to hear firsthand about the work of these inspiring women,” said Kate Iorpenda, an Alliance senior technical advisor. “Their stories provide an important reminder of the complex challenges facing community organisations responding to the impacts of HIV and AIDS.
“This visit has helped establish promising links between the Alliance and Oxfam GB for sharing and learning, in particular around the role of people living with HIV in the provision of HIV services.”
Gladys Bamboola, who has been openly living with HIV since 1996, has mobilised and empowered more than 300 women living with HIV in her home district of Luwero, Uganda. Her community group 'Women Living with HIV and AIDS' runs HIV prevention, care, treatment and support activities.
Gladys has received training from Alliance Uganda as a trainer of Network Support Agents as part of the Networks Project, which empowers HIV positive people to help others access services.
A widow for fourteen years, she told Alliance staff about the legal problems that many women face when they lose their husbands. Property and land grabbing is a common issue, she said, and widows are often taken advantage of. Her group provides much needed support for these women.
Gladys also spoke about barriers to accessing antiretroviral treatment. Although the drugs are free, associated services are charged for. People are dying in their homes because they don’t have the money to pay for a test, she said.
Mama Rose Thamae spoke of similar challenges in South Africa. Diagnosed HIV positive in 1990 after a gang rape incident, she has run the ‘Let us grow’ community centre since 1996.
The grandmother of two explained how her organisation trains community workers to provide home-based care and support to the terminally ill, orphans and child-headed households. The centre also supports those receiving antiretroviral treatment and trains teenagers to teach their peers about HIV prevention.