“I am afraid what will happen when there will be no more projects like this one”

Students wait for their HIV results. The school is proud to take part in the health club and HIV testing project which was introduced in the school only one semester ago, encouraging students to ask for information and seek support.

On Friday afternoon in Municipal Lycee of Nyakabiga, Burundi,  headmistress Chantal Keza is introducing her students to the medical staff from Association Burundaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ABUBEF).

Peer educators at the school, trained by ABUBEF,  will perform a short drama based around sexual health and will answer questions about contraception methods from students. One of the actresses is peer educator Ammande Berlyne Dushime. Ammande, who is 17 years old is one of three peer educators at the school.

Ammande, together with her friends, perform their short drama on the stage based on a young girls quest for information on contraception. It ends on a positive note, with the girl receiving useful and correct information from a peer educator at her school. A story that could be a very real life scenario at her school. Peer programmes that trained Ammande, are under threat of closure due to the Global Gag rule.

Ammande says,

“I am afraid what will happen when there will be no more projects like this one. I am ready to go on with work as peer educator, but if there are not going to be regular visits by the medical stuff from the clinic, then we will have no one to seek information and advice from. I am just a teenager, I know so little. Not only I will lose my support, but also I will not be taken serious by my schoolmates. With such important topic like sexual education and contraception, I am not the authority. I can only show the right way to go. And this road leads to ABUBEF.”

She says “As peer educator I am responsible for Saturday morning meetings at the clinic. We sing songs, play games, have fun and learn new things about sex education, contraception, HIV protection and others. Visiting the clinic is then very easy, and no student has to be afraid, that showing up at the clinic that treats HIV positive people, will ruin their reputation. Now they know that we can meet there openly, and undercover of these meetings seek for help, information, professional advice and contraception methods”

Peer educator classes are a safe and open place for students to openly talk about their sexual health. The Global Gage Rule will force peer educator programmes like this to close due to lack of funding.

Sada, 64, sells vegetables at the market. Following many illnesses and visits to the hospital it wasn’t until she went to ABUBEF that Sada found she was HIV positive. After 3 years of treatment she feels like a new person. “I have regular checks for my immune system. Sometimes I also get food, but most of all I receive psychological support. I meet a lot of people, also HIV positive, I joined a focus group; I make new friends.”
ABUBEF’s nurse, Evelyne. Due to funding cuts, the clinic can no longer afford a doctor. Evelyne explains how she had to operate to remove a tumour in a clients’ breast. “People with HIV would come for a therapy, contraception and regular check-ups in one place but now the services are not integrated anymore, people will not have enough money to pay and they will stop coming,” says Evelyne.
An estimated 80% of ABUBEFs’ clients are poor, marginalized, socially excluded and/or under-served, including young people living with HIV, internally displaced persons, young mothers, sex workers, drug users and street children.

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