Give Stigma the Index Finger !
I just come from doing an evaluation in Mozambique on a COMIC RELIEF funded project “Give Stigma the Index Finger” , implemented by IPPF in partnership with RENSIDA and Oral Testimonies Work. The project started in 2011 and successfully published a study on the discrimination and stigma people living with HIV/AIDS face in Mozambique (www.stigmaindex.org).
The study was the first of its kind in the country, it was led by RENSIDA, a Mozambican network of 39 organizations of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and identified the main types of discrimination. The most important being the auto-discrimination. PLHIV are fearing the social judgment, and avoiding conflictual situations, sometimes denying their status. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression are very common. The mixture of real stigma from people and auto-discrimination creates difficult barriers to access care and treatment. The study has been accompanied by an in depth work of harvesting oral testimonies, stories of PLHIV, their daily lives. The testimonies are not extra-ordinary, there are not of people that have found a life-saving drug, or super-politicians. They are lives of the average Joao and Maria, who caught the virus and live with it. Their stories are simple and plain, no long digression, no deep thoughts, the type of stories one can read and go. But if you read between the lines and stop, read what has not been said, the missing links between the words, these stories are made of love, betrayal, series of crashes and always, as hard as it is, the people got back to their feet. They are survivors of dead members of their families, of friends. With each dead comes a memory. Their stories are opening to a bottomless possibility to relate. One can stop on what they say, or follow the invitation of the unsaid. Of the moment they shared their lives.
Interviewers of RENSIDA have deeply felt that the listening and the interest they showed in hearing the lives of PLHIV, their joys and the stigma they experience has also often helped people taking their lives back in charge.
It was an amazing opportunity to work along activists, to meet decision-makers and grass-root organizations. It was a great opportunity to see a project that has had an impact and will continue, with a strong ownership from local organizations, governmental bodies, INGO, etc.