Nigeria, with a populationof over 129million, has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDs in West Africa. Of the nearly 40 million people said to be infected with the pandemic globally, at least 10% live in Nigeria. More than 50% of infected people in Nigeria are women.
HIV prevalence among pregnant women ranges from 2.3% in the South West region to 7% in the north central region. Factors such as poverty, lack of education, social imbalance, sexual violence and higher level of STIs, make women more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as compared to men.
With an estimated 1.8 million AIDS orphans, Nigeria has the highest number of orphans and vulnerable children in the world. Poverty forces families to practice early marriages of girls and forced transactional sexual relations in exchange for money, gifts and other favours. The poor suffer; many households sell their assets, switch to less nutritious crops or withdraw children from school to cope with the impact of AIDS.
The STAR program in Nigeria is designed to facilitate the emergence of community led initiatives that empower women, girls, youth and other vulnerable groups to understand and claim their rights o reproductive and sexual health and overcome the power and gender norms that expose them to HIV infection.
It is expected that the process will lead to the emergence of community structures and systems that promote access to health care related needs of women and girls within a supportive environment. Additionally, the project supports AAIN’s work in strengthening and building capacity of people with HIV /AIDS to advocate for their rights.
The STAR program is being implemented in partnership with 3 organizations in 3 states. These are Niger State Agency For Mass Education Minna; Agape Foundation For Literacy and Rural Development, Ebonyi State; Kebbi Alliance for Positive People (KAPOP) Kebbi State.
Each partner worked with 7 communities in the first year and will be expected to scale by 4 new communities to 11 communities per state over the rest of the duration of the project. In all, 33 communities in Nigeria will be targeted in the implementation working with 66 facilitators. (2 per community). In addition, Nigeria will facilitate the scale up of the STAR project to 8 communities in Ghana and 2 communities in Cameroon.
In Nigeria, documentation of experiences in going on and there are various case studies being documented. Mentoring and training on documentation is done regularly to encourage facilitators to document their best practices and case studies.
In addition to this, facilitator- shared meetings are usually organized to encourage sharing and learning of best practices. There are also partners’ shared sessions that are regularly held. Case studies have been compiled to make four publications and 2 newsletters have been published for Nigeria STAR EC. There is a partnership against poverty with an HIV/AIDS component. 2 trainings and refresher trainings have been conducted and Baselines for communities are being successfully carried out and translated.
Further more, communities are actively sharing experiences among themselves and there is an internal finance advisor who goes to partners regularly to offer advice on financial and accountability issues. One of the Nigerian partners presented a paper on the STAR approach at the Toronto HIV/AIDS conference, which took sharing and learning of the STAR process to a wider level. This is all in bid to empower communities in the face of HIV/AIDS.