Financial security for people with HIV in DRC

“Business is good,” says Mama Antho. She has bought a stock of waste soya beans to sell as pig food, and set up a small shop in a busy part of Matadi. She buys each bag for 4,000fr and sells them for 6,000fr, making a healthy profit. Many of her customers buy in bulk and there is a steady stream of customers passing. “I chose this particular business rather than another type of shop to avoid getting pestered by children wanting biscuits and sweets!” she says.

Mama Antho was chosen to receive $500 to set up her own business by Ntembo, one of the many self-help groups for people living with HIV in Bas Congo. Members of Ntembo hold meetings to decide who should be the next group member to benefit from the next round of community funds. Ntembo receives seed grants from grantee JADISIDA.

Since starting her own business, things have already changed considerably for Antho. Not only has she been able to send her three children to school, she has been able to improve their nutrition and pay for essential dental treatment. “My children are much happier because they thought their education would have to end but now they will complete their studies”.

Perhaps more important is the difference it has made to her status within the family. When her family became aware of her HIV status, they set her apart and treated her with disrespect. Since setting up her own business, being able to support her children and pay their school fees, her family’s attitude has changed and she is no longer so isolated, making a great difference to Antho’s psychological wellbeing.

Lack of financial security can be a major concern for people living with HIV and a family’s ability to cope with the impact of HIV/AIDS depends on the state of the household’s economic resources before, during, and after the disease affects them.

Mama Antho will start the repayments to her group with interest just five months on from receiving the loan and these funds will then be used to help the next group member. She believes this system works because the foundations of the group are based on the solidarity between members. She feels a real sense of duty and responsibility to repay the community fund as she is close to the next members to benefit.

Since 2010, we have been working as part of a consortium in five provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the USAID-funded Projet de VIH/SIDA au Congo (ProVIC). We have provided technical support to local NGOs to strengthen self-help groups of people living with HIV, as well as children’s peer groups, so that they are able to address their own needs in terms of care and support. Each self-help group typically has between 20 and 25 participants and the focus very often falls on income generating activities so that members might become financially independent.

Since starting her own business, things have changed considerably for Antho.