Support for International Change works to develop future leaders while fighting HIV/AIDS in rural communities in Tanzania.
SIC was founded in 2002 with a dual goal: To limit the impact of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania and to train future leaders in global health and development. As we started to work in the cities we began to see that they were crowded with other organizations providing services. We started to look into providing services in rural areas and quickly found out rural communities need services the most.
In rural areas, poor infrastructure and poverty prevent people from getting access to testing and treatment. This is made worse by the lack of education in the villages. Individuals in rural areas are left with few ideas on how to protect themselves from HIV, and therefore people living with HIV are also heavily stigmatized. Because of all these factors, people were dying more quickly in rural areas than in cities.
These deaths, like all HIV related deaths, are completely preventable. They are caused by stigma that drives families to abandon their HIV positive members, by individuals not knowing their status and how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and tragically by not having access to the free HIV medications that the government provides.
In response to this crisis, SIC shifted its focus to working in rural villages. We work to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, teach prevention education, provide free testing, and connect HIV positive individuals to treatment. SIC does this through its Community Health Worker (CHW) Program, its Peer Educator Program, and its Volunteer Program that all work to support SIC’s mobile Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) units and its mobile Care and Treatment Clinics (CTCs)
The CHW program trains villagers to teach their community about HIV/AIDS, help get their community tested, and finally also help connect their community’s HIV positive members to treatment. The Peer Educators Programs trains secondary school students to also teach their community and help get people tested. Lastly, the Volunteer Programs is like both the CHW and Peer Educators Programs in teaching about HIV/AIDS and promoting testing, but it works by putting international and Tanzanian volunteers together in order to run an intensive eight week or twelve week awareness campaign.
Once awareness grows, SIC brings a VCT unit to the village to provide fast, free, and confidential testing. Then any HIV positive individuals are given the opportunity to register with SIC. Registering with SIC means connection to treatment. Starting from registration CHWs work to provide basic care to HIV positive individuals in the villages and also bring them to the mobile CTCs. These Mobile CTCs are a joint effort between SIC and government hospitals that involves bringing doctors and other hospital staff into the village to provide HIV treatment, which rural individuals would not otherwise have access to.
Our model is focused on empowerment. We want to empower everyday individuals to help their community as well as themselves. We wanted our motto to reflect this, so we chose “Tuko Pamoja Kuushinda UKIMWI," which means, "We are together to fight AIDS." We know the only way we can conquer HIV/AIDS is if everyone helps, and we would love to have your help. You can help SIC in two ways: You can volunteer with us (more information at www.sichange.org/volunteer) or you can donate to us.