IFGH 2012: Networks of People Living with HIV: Strengthening Community Responses to HIV in Uganda

January 30, 2012

Authors: Hodgson I.1, Gitau-Mburu D.1, Nakiyemba A.2, Bitira D.3, Seeley J.4

Author Affiliations: 1 International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Hove, UK, 2BBusitema University, Uganda, 3Alliance Uganda,Kampala, Uganda, 4University of East Anglia, UK

Option 1 – Scientific / Empirical Research Findings

Presented as – Oral Poster

Aims:

In recent years, Uganda has experienced rapid growth in networked groups of people living with HIV (PLHIV) that provide support, advocacy, treatment and care and raise the profile of HIV in the public domain. The potential for a positive impact on individuals, communities and health systems is a key driver of these initiatives.
 The aims of this qualitative study were to explore the benefits of joining a networked group, relationships between groups, impact of networked groups on the community, and shaping private and public experience of living with HIV.

Methods:

Data were collected during 2010 from two Ugandan districts, using semi-structured interviews, focus groups, observation, and reviews of group records. Respondents (n=46) were adults living with HIV, and members of PLHIV groups. Narratives from PLHIV (n=27) were gathered, and records from PLHIV group service-registers (n=20) reviewed. Key Informants (n=15) were purposively selected for interview, based on participation in PLHIV groups, and utilisation of network services. Focus group discussions were held with network support agents and PLHIV group members.

Results:

Findings suggest that for respondents, PLHIV networks enhance the impact and effectiveness of individual groups, as well as diversifying available services. For groups, being part of a wider network allows for diversity of service delivery, and well-defined roles for individuals to participate in community mobilisation, support and sensitisation, with a reduction in the experience of stigma.

We also revealed indications of tension between groups, especially with those outside the HIV sector, and potential challenges in aligning group aims and competing for limited resources.

Conclusions:

We conclude that networking PLHIV groups is an effective strategy for improving the quality and reach of community-based HIV services. Governments should support networks, and include them in national policy making. Local and regional groups should explore further ways to collaborate and expand PLHIV support in Uganda.

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