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Sexual health, including HIV

The power of HIV/AIDS post-test clubs in Uganda

A community member writes a memory book for his children.

A community member writes a memory book for his children.

Phoebe Kasoga, Resource Mobilization Manager for Plan Uganda, works with communities in rural Uganda to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and to support post-test clubs. In this question and answer article, she discusses Plan efforts in Uganda to support individuals, families and especially children affected by HIV and AIDS.

What is a post-test club?

A post-test club is a place where people can be tested for HIV and, regardless of their test result, they can take advantage of a whole suite of Plan-supported services like access to community gardens, village savings and loans programs, and vocational training.

Is it available to people who test negative?

Yes, knowing one’s HIV status is very important because the earlier the virus is detected, the better it can be treated but still people are afraid to know. The post-test club is so valuable because it gives people a good incentive to become aware of their status.

But it also does so much more. It is really a point of entry into the needs of the community. It is a social forum and a peer-to-peer network.

How did post-test clubs begin?

Between 2003-2004, a lot of Plan’s work was in getting people tested to discover their HIV status. But while local health clinics were provided with test kits, the problem was that there was no focus on giving people emotional and social support afterward.

The concept of post-test clubs began as people would get tested, then meet informally afterward and share their stories, their hopes and fears. They would cook communal meals to make sure everyone got fed and they worked on overcoming the stigma of being HIV positive. They seemed to start everywhere at once. Plan became involved to formalize the group, helping to link people who were tested with post-test clubs.

Post-test clubs provide valuable services for the community. Will-writing and Memory books began in post-test clubs.

What are memory books?

They are books that HIV positive parents can write to their young babies. The parents are usually close to succumbing to AIDS, but they can be a part of their children’s lives as the child grows up. Memory books can help children get a sense for who they are and where they come from.

Does Plan actively run the post-test clubs?

No. These are community organizations, and they are community run and community sustained. Plan is available to give business and organizational training, but I am happy to say that post-test clubs quickly move to be self-sustainable. At the Nyalakot post-test club, Plan has moved from implementers to the club being self-sufficient.

There is a full kitchen which is especially useful since the post-test club started a vocational training program in catering. Now they have a place to earn money, and the community has a full-service hall for events and functions.

Another successful program is the savings and loan groups. There are three of them through the Nyalakot post-test club. The small loans that people get make all the difference in their lives. They can buy seeds for short-maturing crops or drought-resistant seeds - whatever the needs of the area are, depending on the time of the year. There is also more money for disposable income...The repayment rates are very good and the village savings and loan groups are very responsible about the money.

How do other communities view post-test clubs?

Even outside areas where we work, communities are taking notice of the success of post-test clubs. They’re catching on like brush fires! They are seeing how self-starting initiatives are greatly changing lives.