From Stigma to Business Success - Jacinta and the SAFUA Women’s Group

The Safua Women's Group

Jacinta still remembers the harsh experience she went through when she tested HIV positive and disclosed her status to her workmates. At that time she was a primary school teacher in Machakos County. It was during the 1990s, when stigma was still very high.  Instead of supporting her, other teachers in the school started avoiding her and even refused to use utensils she used, thinking they would be infected.

She found the same attitudes in her home village in Kibwezi and even in her church. One day she was disappointed to hear a pastor preach that HIV and AIDS is a curse from God for sexually immoral people.

Finally she was forced to resign from her job as a teacher and decided to put all her effort into fighting stigma in her community. She started the first HIV support group in the larger Kibwezi District called SAFUA, which means “Stay Alive For Us All, with only 3 members.  This group soon grew from 3 members to 90 members. They offered support for each other, for bed ridden patients, and encouraged and promoted strict drug adherence.

The SAFUA Women’s Group, under the leadership of Jacinta was so successful that all the people who were testing positive in hospitals in Kibwezi District were being referred to them.

SAFUA Group Goat Venture

Their success story has spread widely and inspired others to form groups in almost all districts in Makueni County and parts of Machakos and Nairobi Counties.

Jacinta is now a qualified trainer of trainers in Prevention with Positives (PWP) packages, Home and Community Based Care (HCBC), and is a paralegal and anti-stigma champion. She helps to facilitate sessions during support group meetings, and is also a national trainer.

With the help of HOPE worldwide Kenya, Jacinta also started a program within SAFUA Support Group to look after orphans due to HIV and other reasons.  This program includes income generating projects such as goat keeping, poultry farming, brick making, and table banking. This has helped members of SAFUA to generate income and stop the dependency syndrome. All the children of the 75 members of the support group who are living with HIV have been tested for HIV and the women trained on prevention of mother to child transmission.  There are 28 children in SAFUA Support Group that are HIV positive and have been helped to form a children’s support group in order to help them understand their status, the importance of drug adherence, and how to live a positive life.

Brick Making

House before renovation.............. House after renovation