Guatemala: Women Living with HIV Learn to Support Themselves

Published on 29 November 2012

Reina (second from the right) and other Guatemalan women make handcrafts. (Copyright: WFP/Martha Salazar)

Thanks to this initiative a group of Guatemala women living with HIV learn about their condition, to give emotional support to one another and to develop new skills that will allow them to earn a living and put food on the table for their families.

GUATEMALA CITY -Eight days after the birth of Jonas, his mother passed away due to complications related to HIV. After his mother's death, Jonas' aunt, Reina Mendez, 48 years old, has been taking care of him so he would have love and a home. Little Jonas has already received 18 months of a anti-retroviral treatment and now at 4 years old, the results of the laboratory exams revealed he is HIV negative.

But taking care of Jonas has not been easy for Reina, a woman who did not know anything about HIV and its impact. She did not know any work skills to support herself  and also a small child.

Fortunately for Reina, the World Food Programme (WFP) in Guatemala, through the non-governmental organization APEVIHS (Association for the Prevention and Study of HIV/AIDS, in Spanish) is training a group of 70 mothers who are the head of households or are in charge of their homes partially so they learn new skills so they can earn a living and improve their families' economy in communities of the departments of Retalhuleu and Coatepeque.

“The support that I have received from the Health staff of Coatepeque and the trainings provided by APEVIHS have helped me with Jonas's treatment, and taught me about the importance of the health controls, nutrition and hygiene so that my little Jonas would grows up well,” said Reina, who added that “the productive projects are a good opportunity to cover the health and education needs of our children.”

In addition, these women receive training and guidance on how to get organized, to market their handcrafts and to create of a special fund for the purchase of raw materials with the goal of promoting the production of handcrafts.

Improving the Economy and the Way of Life
“In these trainings I have learned to make piñatas, candles, sowing and to work with recyclable material such as plastic and paper," says 35-year-old Flor de Maria Soriano, a mother of 7 children who lives HIV. "With the sales from these crafts I have managed to give my children the opportunity to study and to also help my husband who currently has no job,” she says.

WFP Nutritionist, Martha Salazar, explains that this project goes beyond helping these women improve their family economy and their lifestyle. The project also creates a space where they have the opportunity to meet and know other women living in similar conditions, which helps them feel accepted and supported. This sharing creates a solidarity bond among them and allows for them to live at least once a week without worries.

“These women are aware that maybe one day the sickness may catch them, but in the mean time they take a positive attitude towards life and they do what is  necessary to better their conditions so that their children may move forward,” says the WFP Nutrionist.

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about the author

Elizabeth Sagastume

Public Information Officer for Guatemala

Elizabeth is a Guatemalan national. She has been working for WFP since January 2006. Before that she worked for the International Federation of the Red Cross.