World AIDS Day 2014 event report

World AIDS Day is a global health day introduced by the World Health Organization in the 1988. It is observed on 1 December each year and aims at raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by HIV infection.

UNAIDS has announced that taking a Fast-Track approach over the next five years will allow the world to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

In Somalia there are a lot of gaps in HIV prevention, stigma, discrimination, treatment, care and support, if it’s not scale up in the next five years, the epidemic is likely to spring back with a higher rate of new HIV infections than today.

For the commemoration of this day, SWDC organized community based campaign in the biggest IDP camp Alcadaala located on the outskirt of Mogadishu; the aim of the campaign was to mobilize local communities to stop discrimination and stigma against people living with HIV. Traditionally Somali society believe HIV/AIDs is non-Muslim, however SWDC cases workers in the field conduct awareness sessions on this endemic and help communities to have better understanding that the disease can come to anyone regardless of their religion ethnicity.

During the celebration, around 120 participants including women, children and men have attended wearing hats and t-shirts written with slogans and messages. SWDC case workers provided brief awareness session and explained the significant of this day for the community as preventive measures and for the people living with HIV/AIDs as living with disease.

Similarly, the case worker explained the mechanisms and approaches that people can use to check if someone is suspected to have HIV/AIDs like visiting Voluntary Counseling & Test (VCT) centers.

The participants had also raised their voices, Halima Adan said “because of the awareness provided by this organization we have realized that the disease is existing in our community and we need stop it from spreading, we need to make our next generation free from HIV/AIDs”.

Faduma (not her real name) said “I saw many positive women, who were raped by militia, after that they became positive, when they realized their status, they met discrimination even from their own families and were totally isolated, recently I heard one of those women passed away”.

The participants shared many problems, it was was difficult to change the minds and behavior of the people, because of their believes and culture, the team leader of Camp, said “in some regions Somali culture when the girls are in the age of 6 years they are married to man, and he waits until her maturity age, for that we can’t say men to take pre-marital HIV test because he was waiting her for a very long time. He said we should break that culture to save the young generation specially young girls who are the most vulnerable in every time to virus.”

Many people of the participants were denying the existence of HIV, but after they attended several awareness sessions, they accepted to go VCT, and also inform the other people.

One of the traditional elders named Abdulle, 80 years old with 5 children displaced from Dinsor has been living in Mogadishu as an IDP over the last five years. During the gathering Abdulle refused to enter the hall of the event as he was reluctant to hear the name of the disease saying “HIV isn’t existing in my country and I don’t believe it at all”. One of the SWDC team tried to convince him to participate the awareness and he accepted to participate the event, Shortly after Abdulle decided to be a campaigner for prevention and stigma reduction against HIV clients, at same time recommended young generation to make the test and visit the designated centers.