Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction Program

Arifa leads a computer class at FACT in Guyana. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

When Arifa arrived in August 2010 at Family Awareness Consciousness Togetherness (FACT), a USAID-funded non-governmental organization (NGO) that receives technical support from the MSH-led GHARP II Project, it was immediately evident that she had major communication challenges. At age 17, Arifa found it difficult to have even brief conversations with anyone.

The Berbice Technical Institute had sent Arifa to FACT as a work-study student for a two-month term. At the time, she was studying for a Certificate in Information Technology (IT).

FACT assigned Arifa to be an assistant teacher in their computer program with 40 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), ages twelve to fifteen. Most of the time, Arifa could be found sitting in a corner all alone. When she did speak, the children made fun of her.

At age 14, Miriam turned to commercial sex work to provide for her family. Read Miriam's story: sex worker, peer educator, and founder of a community-based organization in Guyana.

Mary's 120 square foot house, purchased in 1992 (Mala Persaud/GHARP II)

Mary* was married at the young age of 13 in her hometown, Crabwood Creek, Region 6, Guyana. At age 15, after she gave birth to her first child, her husband deserted them. Mary was left to provide for herself and her child. She tried a few odd jobs, but they did not work out. In 1989, at age 15, she turned to commercial sex work. At this time, Mary had never heard of condoms and had never used one. Her earnings were adequate, as much as $300 some weeks. However, heeding the advice of many of her older friends, she chose to leave sex work in 1992, spent her savings on a 120 square feet house, and started fishing to support herself and son.

In 2006, Jamila, a 24 year old Guyanese waitress, took the opportunity to work in a store overseas with the hope of building a better life for her children. But her dreams were dashed when she arrived in the new country and realized the only job available was as a commercial sex worker. She had no money, nowhere to stay, and no one to turn to, so she became a sex worker to survive.  Jamila eventually earned enough to pay for her airfare back to Guyana, where she had left her children with her grandmother.

After her return to Guyana, she was encouraged by a friend to take an HIV test, but though the test was positive, Jamila did not believe it, as she was healthy at the time.

Jamila sought employment at a local logging company as a plywood grader. However, the challenges of her job eventually took a toll on her health and she repeatedly became ill. She thought her illness was a result of the hard work and sought alternative employment. She eventually found work as a caregiver at Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), one of the organizations supported by the USAID-funded, Management Sciences for Health-led, Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction Program (GHARP II).

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