Societies Tackling AIDS through Rights (STAR)

STAR: Empowering Communities in the face of HIV/AIDSSocieties Tackling AIDS through Rights (STAR) is a comprehensive integrated methodology which combines the strength of participatory learning on HIV & AIDS with empowerment and social change. It focuses on relationships and communication skills with the aim of reducing HIV transmission, improving SRH and fostering gender empowerment. This is combined with an innovative approach to adult learning that enables people to plan their development activities based on the local reality

The STAR EC Project


STAR methodology is evolved from two participatory approaches (Stepping Stones and REFLECT). It is envisaged that STAR enables women & girls, poor & excluded people and PLWHA reflect, plan and act on HIV and AIDS integrating with development agendas. Hence, it mainstreams HIV/AIDS by exploring and connecting the pandemic with community life and Endeavour such as livelihood, agriculture, education, health and culture. STAR further employs Human Rights Based approach to HIV/AIDS in relation to poor & excluded, women and PLWHA putting power analysis at the centre of the reflection and action.

Moreover, STAR facilitates wider citizen’s involvement in HIV and AIDS prevention, access to care and treatment and other services through the creation and strengthening of critical mass. Likewise, the approach uses literacy of STAR circle members for better communication and advocacy. By doing so it is believed that the human rights perspective of STAR approach optimizes the impact of existing HIV and AIDS interventions on services and commodities that are aimed at preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. All this is geared to ensure sustained and scaled up HIV and AIDS response.

It is apparent that STAR value addition to the community HIV and AIDS response would be substantiated while the application of the methodology demonstrates concrete results and visible examples on HIV prevention and treatment. This will justify the relevance of the approach in the fight against the epidemic bringing rights and policy advocacy in the fore front. Hence, a systematic and continuous data collection, analysis, learning, documentation, publications and sharing to wider actors who intend to use /scale up the approach.

This initiative is a continuity of action research process that is undertaken by Pamoja and AAI with the support of Comic Relief. Further more the value addition to HIV and AIDS response will lay the foundation on the use of the approach beyond on HIV and AIDS on wider poverty agendas. It is under the above background this concept note on STAR competency modelling is developed.

European Commission (EC) has supported ActionAid International (AAI) to implement STAR project in 7 countries (i.e. Bangladesh, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and scale up to 12 new countries (Angola, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, The Gambia, India, Liberia, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia). The project aims at contributing to the prevention and mitigation of HIV and AIDS among poor women and girls, boys and men.

Its objective is to develop an integrated and comprehensive approach to individual and community empowerment in the face of HIV and AIDS in 280 communities. It is also anticipated that the scaling up of STAR in to the new countries allows, based on the learning of the seven countries, an expanded and sustained community response. The partners are CBOs, PLHA organizations, youth associations, women and girls groups, HIV/AIDS coalitions and women rights networks. The reflection and actions are geared to demand service providers for information and services for PLWHA, orphans and women. Some of the actions are self targeted on customs and stigma which fuel up the epidemic.
STAR is an integrated comprehensive methodology which combines the strength of participatory learning on HIV & AIDS with empowerment and social change. It focuses on relationships and communication skills with the aim of reducing HIV transmission, improving SRH and fostering gender empowerment. This is combined with an innovative approach to adult learning that enable people to plan their development activities based on local realities.

STAR approach seeks to address misinformation or lack of information on HIV/AIDS issues and fragmented responses. It also addresses issues of gender equity and breaks barriers to communication by enhancing the capacity of individuals to open up and talk about sensitive issues on HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and death among other things.

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Pilot and Scale Up Countries

STAR is currently being implemented in seven countries with support form European Commission and will be scaled up to an additional twelve countries beginning September 2006. The STAR EC project is jointly being implanted by ActionAid International (AAI) and Pamoja Africa Reflect Network through partners in the respective countries. Below is an outline of pilot countries, their focal areas and scale up countries.

At the moment STAR is focusing on the vulnerable populations, advocacy & communication, prevention especially among the youth, HIV & AIDS management, support & care for PLWHAs, VCT, removal of socio-cultural, systemic and information barriers, mobilization of community based responses, condom social marketing, PMCT, impact mitigation, openness and non-discrimination and improving access to services for OVCs and PLWHAs.

1) Bangladesh: vulnerable populations; advocacy and communication; safe blood; care, support and GIPA; management and institutional support (Scale up countries; China, India, Nepal and Vietnam).

2) Malawi: creating an enabling socio-cultural and economic environment; prevention, especially among youth; HIV/AIDS management; Voluntary Counseling and Testing; Information Education Communication (IEC) and behaviour change (Scale up country is South Africa).

3) Mozambique: focus on youth, highly mobile populations and other vulnerable groups; care and support to positive people and families; impact reduction (Scale up country is Angola).

4) Nigeria: removal of socio-cultural, systemic and information barriers; mobilization of community-based responses; target high-risk populations; care and support for positive people (Scale up country is Ghana).

5) Sierra Leone: condom social marketing; Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission; Voluntary Counseling and Testing, care and support; surveillance (Scale up countries; The Gambia and Liberia).

6) Uganda: HIV prevention among young people and vulnerable groups; treatment, care, support and impact mitigation; capacity building for effective response. Openness and non-discrimination are actively promoted (Scale up countries; Ethiopia and Tanzania).

7) Zimbabwe: prevention, particularly amongst youth and in workplace; Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission; improving access to care for positive people and orphans (Scale up country is Zambia).

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Target Groups/audiences

Poor and marginalized women, girls, men and boys
HIV positive people or PLWHAs
People affected in the wider family and community
Government agencies, service providers, NGOs, CBOs, networks and coalitions

Overall Objective

The overall objective of the STAR project is to develop an integrated approach to individual and community empowerment in the face of HIV & AIDS through practical action and reflection in diverse countries.

This action will optimise the impact of existing interventions, services and commodities aimed at preventing and fighting HIV and AIDS among the poorest populations. STAR fits in with national strategies and action plans and will increase citizens’ demands for key HIV interventions. This empowerment will promote demand for the affordability and coverage of prevention and care services and for access to pharmaceuticals and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS.

Specific Objectives

  • To ensure increased access of information and knowledge by communities on the HIV & AIDS, SRH, other basic rights and
  • To strengthen the literacy and communication of vulnerable people especially women/girls, giving them skills to negotiate, open up dialogue within the household and community and participate in taking decisions especially in relation to SRH and rights.
  • To promote local and international processes that enhance community access to services that are in line with fighting HIV & AIDS and promoting rights.
  • To increase the capacity of poor and HIV infected people to advocate for their priorities, particularly in response to HIV & AIDS e.g. demanding increased access to testing and affordable treatment.
  • To facilitate and promote processes that foster effective community engagement in the design and implementation of policies (of local, national and international governments social structures/systems & NGOs) tied to the fight against HIV & AIDS.
  • To strengthen the capacity of health services and other relevant agencies beyond the relevant health sector, to respond effectively to the HIV-related needs and priorities of the poor.
  • To challenge prejudice and discrimination, despair and stigma around HIV & AIDS.
  • To strengthen the base of (or build a new) organisations of positive people –enabling them to play an active role locally and nationally in responding to all aspects of the HIV & AIDS pandemic, including the promotion of positive living and effective coping strategies in demanding accessible services and facilities.

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Understanding STAR

As mentioned earlier on, STAR is the outcome of a synthesis of two powerful methodologies that is Stepping Stones and Reflect. Stepping Stones (SS) is a participatory learning packaged on HIV & AIDS focusing on relationships and communication skills with the aim of reducing HIV transmission, improving SRH and fostering gender empowerment.

Reflect on the other hand is an innovative approach to adult literacy learning, empowerment and social change that enables people to plan their development activities based on local reality. Poor and vulnerable people gain confidence and skills to claim and demand their rights and also to hold the government, NGOs, donors and business people accountable.

Thus, STAR is an approach to enable communities to identify, analyse and tackle issues that affect them in the context of HIV & AIDS. It draws all relevant participatory tools and techniques to facilitate a process of exploring how these issues are linked with HIV & AIDS and how to take effective action to improve, address or solve them.

Basic Principle of STAR

  • HIV & AIDS are mainstreamed and systematically
  • Activities are conducted in peer working groups
  • Use of participatory tools and techniques to enhance learning
  • Group discussions are underpinned by power analysis
  • STAR programmes have an inbuilt literacy and communication skills
  • Participation is key and everyone is visible and has a chance to be heard
  • Each discussion is hinged on actions/issues generated by the community
  • Participants set up benchmarks for tracking progress and impact being made
  • There is a strong element of documentation and information management

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