Our nutrition and peer support program continues to be a regular part of clinic life in Sikoro. Every Tuesday and Friday, the HIV+ women’s group can be found busily preparing food purchased that morning from the Sikoro market. Each meal features a different menu and new delicious smells: Fish and veggies with rice, beef sauce with potatoes, meatballs and manioc… Some of our HIV+ patients say that it’s the best meal that they and their children get all week.

It’s true that we may not have the greatest environment; even after adding a roof over the cooking area, it continues to be cramped and not terribly well adapted to cooking and sharing a meal together. However, the community makes the most of the available space, and their hard work and regularity have built a framework for support and exchange among newly diagnosed patients.

Fatim, the new president of the HIV+ women’s association, is a dedicated leader with a strong vision for the group, which now has 50 members. Fatim is enrolling the women in a microfinance program that encourages entrepreneurial activities. This type of activity is crucial for many of the women who are the sole providers for their children.

Fatim keeps the group closely linked with the national organizations for people living with HIV/AIDS, and another of her initiatives is to start “peer learning groups” for the Sikoro HIV+ community. Sharing experiences and listening to others will help people who struggle to follow their treatment plans, and encourage the community as a whole to combat the social stigmatization that they face in their daily lives.

The funding that GAIA provides to keep the nutrition program going is just a small part of this larger whole. Thanks to the efforts of the dedicated women involved, this simple program fosters a world of support for people facing daily challenges due to their HIV diagnosis, social stigmatization, or poverty and food insecurity.

We need to keep this program running, but it’s entirely funded by individual donations. Please spread the word and contribute what you can to help fund this simple action: just a meal, twice a week, shared among friends and strangers that creates a community of support and opportunity for those who are struggling.

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