In January 2005 CAZAS established a Center for psycho-social support and assistance to PLHIV – People Living with HIV and AIDS. This Center operates within CAZAS’ premises in Podgorica. CAZAS AIDS info telephone service started in November 2003 as part of this Center.
This particular project seeks to strengthen capacities of PLHIV and provide psychosocial support to PLHIV, members of their families, friends and partners. Fight against stigma and discrimination represents one of the main activities that CAZAS has been conducting in the last few years.
Strengthening capacities of PLHIV in Montenegro
15th February 2009 - May 2010
PLHIV, members of their families and friends
Total 46.119 euro
FPH 29,594 - Co financing contribution 16,525 euro (GFATM 3,750 euro, Hivos 8,775 euro, CAZAS 4,000 euro)
Area of activities:
- Psychosocial support to PLHIV
- Building PLHIV capacities in self-support network
- Creating supportive environment to enable PLHIV active involvement in HIV related work in Montenegro
Results achieved to-date and conclusions:
- 1st survey of 11 PLHIV finalised
- 2nd survey of PLHIV commenced but not completed
- 3rd survey of 26 health workers finalized
This kind of survey whilst very good, should be given a longer time period for completion. PLHIV participants found it hard to reveal personal information, particularly with regard to stigma and discrimination, and recollection of shameful situations is too painfull. However, three PLHIV engaged in all three surveys were encouraged to become involved in the HIV/AIDS research work.
- Training for 13 PLHIV and 6 CAZAS staff
To sum up, this training, the first of its kind, was a successful first step in educating the PLHIV on their rights and possibilities for them to get involved in fight against stigma and discrimination activities, but it was not without its challenges. It was quite hard to motivate PLHIV to attend the training - 5 of those who did not want to come told us that they did not want to be in a room with some of the persons they supposed will be present. Stigma and discrimination among themselves was very strong, as well as fear from the unknown. Also, approximately 25 PLHIV were not interested in any kind of involvement in the training or for the surveys. One of the training goals was to explore the possibility of organizing the PLHIV in a team working within a NGO on HIV prevention and fight against stigma and discrimination issues, unfortunately we found that PLHIV were not interested in this.
The 6 members of CAZAS staff were trained in sensitization and obtaining necessary skills and knowledge when it comes to working with PLHIV, and on reduction of stigma and discrimination towards PLHIV.
- 22 self-support sessions held with 19 PLHIV and 21 of their families and friends. Support includes psycho-social and legal support and medical advice
The goal of these self-support sessions was to build capacities of PLHIV and empower them to take action in asserting their human rights: we have learned that this process will take more than expected, in time and encouragement.
In general, the PLHIV who came to the sessions are not proactive in this sense. The group is always very diverse, the members come from very different backgrounds and they are not coherent as a group and interested in organizing themselves in a group which could actively and independently respond to stigma and discrimination.
The project team and IDS are creating and developing all the conditions for them in this direction and we are rather positive about their joint actions. One purpose of these meetings was getting the information from PLWHA and members of their families about their current problems, getting information about their health condition and trying to joint our efforts in making the group a sort of “association of citizens” in order to step forward as a group if any kind of problem occurs. The programme also included development of the skills and gaining the knowledge in regard to the human rights issues, distribution of the relevant information from UNAIDS, WHO and other organizations.
A few of PLHIV who came to the sessions were interested in getting involved and wanted to be more engaged in CAZAS’ activities on fight against stigma and discrimination, but they were discouraged somewhat, since the rest of the group was quite negative about the consequences the of stigma and discrimination. Additional problems for them are lack of time and inadequate education and communicational skills at the moment for working actively and independently on the issue of fight against stigma and discrimination.
- 60 individual counseling and support sessions with PLHIV
These sessions were focused on individual experiences, personal issues and concrete needs. Support and help given through these sessions were psychological, social and economical. Since this was the only place and time in the country when PLHIV could get professional support and help in regard to their personal processes as a person living with HIV, they were very interested and usually came with many questions and stories they would like to share. PLHIV need to be together and share their thoughts, concerns, emotions and problems with each other. This was unique opportunity in Montenegro for them to get that opportunity.
- 4 meetings with Institute for Public Health
From the beginning of the project, CAZAS had focused on, and continuously works on, advocacy and lobby activities on the relevant institutions in order to allocate funds for the purpose of supporting the Center, which contribute to sustainable provision of professional support and care to PLHIV. The results of the meeting were official support for the work of the Center; appreciation of the efforts of CAZAS and FPH on psycho-social support and care for PLHIV and their associates; and deepened cooperation with these institutions.
- Developed, printed and distributed 1500 brochures and 200 guides for PLHIV and their families, to the VCTs, medical institutions and centers and our partners
- Developed brochure for health and social workers working with PLHIV
This material will be also distributed during the World AIDS Campaign (WAD) and during all project activities.
- 2 presentations organized for various donors, agencies and representatives of the business sector
The project team will present the project aims and try to get support from the business sector during the WAD when it is the most appealing to them to fund some of our activities.
- Sensitized and trained 15 general practitioners and nurses from five towns with skills and knowledge to work with PLHIV by reducing their stigma and discrimination towards PLHIV
- Sensitized 15 psychologists, social workers and social-work students and trained with skills and knowledge to work with PLHIV by reducing the level of stigma and discrimination towards PLHIV being present among members of these professions
- Webpage updated monthly
The CAZAS AIDS INFO telephone help line is continually being promoted and operates everyday. Evaluation of the work of the AIDS INFO line shows the majority of calls are made by younger people (15-30) enquiring for themselves or their friends, but often parents call to check the validity of information heard elsewhere. Approximately 65% of callers are females and 35% males. A significant amount of people who call are interested in test results and want to double check the results and information they have received from their doctors and counselors in the VCTs – these callers report they are “not clear, or sure about” what was told to them. From time to time, people are interested in getting tested at CAZAS since they “have more confidence in an NGO than in a public institution”.