When Progressio started partnering with the Talowadag Coalition in 2006, the network of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) had 21 members. Now, the group includes more than 680 people who are living positively with HIV. 87% of these people are women. The group has become a beacon of hope and a source of much-needed support for the community. This world AIDS Day, we are sharing the stories of empowered people who are combating stigma against HIV.

As people living with HIV, members of the group have felt the sting of stigma and discrimination from healthcare providers, friends, community members and even their own families. After one particularly harsh encounter, many members were discouraged from returning to the local health centre. They waited for months before seeking HIV testing, counselling and treatment services, putting their lives in danger.

During interviews, several people said they had first sought HIV testing, treatment, care and support services after an encounter with the Talowadag Coalition.

"It was through these support groups that I made it to a health facility," said one member.

Like so many others, when these people learned that they were HIV positive, they thought their lives were over. Three individuals stayed at home, alone, without seeing anyone, but Talowadag psychosocial workers and support group leaders came to see them when they leant of their situation.

"They came to my home and talked to me and then took me to the hospital," one man said. "From there, they got me into the Nasteexo counselling and support group. From the group, I was empowered and even ready to talk about my status. Now, I have managed to empower so many people."

A young woman said the support group saved not only her life, but the life of her husband as well. She discovered her status after meeting with a group member.

"I got encouraged by her." She said. "She became my friend and I opened up to her. It was too difficult for me to start medication or talk to my husband, because I couldn’t know how he would react."

 "After having joined the group, I became bold and I opened up. I’m happy to say that, through me, my husband is surviving now. Last year he was almost dying but, because of my strength and the support from other PLHIV, he is taking his medication. I’m very happy to be associated with Talowadag because, without their support, I don’t think we would exist."

Progressio supports TALOWADAG by placing specialists who implement the HIV and AIDS Global Fund Integrated Prevention Treatment Care and Support (IPTCS) project. These specialists are changing lives through organizing several support groups and reducing stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV and AIDS. They are building Talowadag’s capacity to support PLHIV members to live positively.

Working together for positive living

Talowadag’s livelihood projects are funded by Progressio, UNDP, ActionAid, SOS and World Vision. PLHIV members, such as Amina, have managed to change their lives thanks to the grants.

"I am Amina. My family stigmatized me when I visited the IPTCS Clinical. I was counselled and referred to Talowadag for support. At Talowadag, I registered as a member, joined a support group and was trained in business management and entrepreneurship skills.

"After the training, I received a micro grant of $500. I used this to start up my small business, which I have sustainably maintained. Through this grant, I have been able to pay my utility bills, my medical expenses and my child’s school fees. Now I can proudly say Talowadag has change my life."


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