Fostering Economic Opportunity for Nigeria's HIV-Positive Women

Fostering Economic Opportunity for Nigeria's HIV-Positive Women

Fatima preparing bean cakes for her business, Nigeria


HIV-positive women in Nigeria are the primary caregivers for their own families and other people living with HIV. This disproportionately high burden of care has detrimental effects not only on their health but also on their economic well-being.

The MSH-led, USAID-funded, Prevention Organization Systems AIDS Care and Treatment (ProACT) project in Nigeria has helped establish HIV support groups whose participants are 80 percent women. These groups have started providing income-generating opportunities for participants through savings and loan associations, registered with the Nigerian State Ministry of Commerce and Cooperative Societies.

In the local government area of Mokwa, 35 women have benefited from the savings and loan association set up through their support group, with loans ranging from about $20 to $35 (N3,000 to N5,000). As these women have begun to benefit from the loans, more people have begun to attend the support group. Between April and October 2010, attendance increased from 45 to 187.

One beneficiary of the loans is Fatima, a subsistence farmer in a household affected by HIV. After she and her husband tested positive in 2008, they began to struggle financially. Fatima began participating in the local support group for people living with HIV and applied for a loan to start a bean-cake business. She used the loan to buy cooking utensils, groundnut oil, and beans.

With her husband’s support, Fatima cleared a small piece of land opposite her home where she set up her trade. In addition to bean-cakes, she used yams and potatoes harvested from her farm to make yam- and potato-cakes. Her business has thrived and she now plans to rent a shop close to her house so she can sell household items as well.

Says Fatima:

There is nothing wrong with me. In fact, I am living better and so happy. My life has changed from not knowing how to take action to being a role model for my peers. Now I do less farm work and make more money.