We are all aware that HIV and now COVID 19 are problems in our communities and they are having a negative impact on families both in this country and abroad. While we recognize the need to support those who are living with HIV, and those infected by COVID 19, the other aspect of the work involving HIV prevention and reducing the impact of COVID 19 in our community is raising awareness on how to prevent both viruses.
Health Action Charity Organisation (HACO) was established as a charitable organisation in the Kent area of the United Kingdom in 2003, and this charity organisation has been working to raise awareness of HIV/Aids and other Health related illnesses and also providing support to members of African communities within the Kent /Medway area. We work closely with the Medway Public Health Team and our work here is highly valued.
Many people, especially members of rural communities in Africa, have not yet received HIV prevention messages relevant to their experiences and cultural background and this is an issue which need addressing in most African Countries. HACO is working in partnership with a charity organisation NOAF in Nigeria to carry out Health Promotion and HIV Awareness in the rural part of Edo State of Nigeria. The issues of HIV is very sensitive and care needs to be taken in targeting the most affected target communities without making them feel that they are being singled out or indeed discriminated against. For people with physical and psychological disabilities, the most fundamental right is the right not to be different from others.
The HIV virus is a very particular type of disability, not visible but arousing a lot of emotions that may be very hard to control in Kent, the most significant increase in the number of HIV infections is occurring amongst African communities. Black Africans make up around 1% of Medway’s population yet account for almost 62% of diagnosed HIV infection . There is also evidence of particularly high levels of undiagnosed HIV infection amongst African communities in UK.
Much more needs to be done about HIV/AIDS education and prevention for African young men, women and children.
Despite being at much higher risk of being affected by HIV than individuals from other groups, and making up the largest proportion of new diagnoses each year, individuals from African communities are not accessing equal levels of support from health and social care services, or those offered by mainstream HIV organisations. According to the Health Protection Agency, “Undiagnosed HIV infection and late diagnosis of long-standing HIV infection continue to be a feature of the treatment histories of [African] men and women” [Nov 2003].
HACO work with the African communities in Medway/Kent to significantly improve access to these services by tackling the recognised and evidenced major causes of this disparity and to improve their sexual health.