In Dakar, Maguette drives an association of sex workers and provides these young women with benevolence and support.
Dakar, in a discreet alleyway, a small house, a little worn out by the years, hides under the leafy mango trees. A young aficionado of Lionel Messi, Barça jersey on his back, comes out with a ball at his feet. “Mommy, if you look for me, I’m playing soccer outside. Mamoudou, 11 years old, is Maguette’s youngest child. He is the pride and joy of Maguette, as are his grandchildren, whose toys are scattered all over the courtyard of his modest home. It is also in this house that Maguette regularly welcomes sex workers who are members of Karlène, the sex workers’ association she drives. “I wasn’t predestined to take care of people, the community fell on me, but today I can’t do without it. »
Maguette is a mother, a grandmother and a landmark for those around her. “Sex work is tolerated, but the law is obsolete*. Many girls remain in hiding because they refuse to register; even with the card, they can be arrested because soliciting is prohibited. “Community structures are therefore essential for many girls who have little support. Every month, Karlène brings the sex workers together for an awareness session. Self-testing for HIV is one of the topics regularly discussed. “They need to be sensitized and informed. They need to be able to benefit from what we haven’t had. They represent the future, future generations. They must have healthy youth. »
About twenty young women are present that day, smiling, happy to share a moment of non-judging conviviality. Very attentive, they are particularly interested in HIV self-testing. “It’s a practical tool, without needles, without pain,” says one of them. And Maguette confirms: “they have a lot of risky practices, so they use and give HIV self-tests to their peers and clients, because it allows them to test themselves regularly. Then, they call us or the hotline* and are referred to a structure not too close to their home in order not to be stigmatized”.
Advising, orienting, protecting, such is the daily life of Maguette whose body bears the stigma of fifty years of struggle. “I had a close relative who was a drug user and a person living with HIV. I myself was a sex worker. I joined the association and eventually became its president. I am also vice-president of RENAPOC. Helping is my life. » Thanks to Enda Santé, partner of the ATLAS Project in Senegal, Karlène was able to join the pool of relay associations for the dispensing of HIV self-tests. “Enda has been supporting us for a very long time, and has strengthened us enormously at the community level. This has enabled us to make great progress, by accompanying us in the talk sessions, in the implementation of demedicalized testing. Myself, they have allowed me to acquire a diploma as a medical sales representative. »
The past year has not been without difficulties for Karlène, with the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of activities have stopped,” says Maguette. Girls are working less. I was worried about many of them. We recommended that the barrier measures be respected, but with the situation, it was complicated. They had to eat. It is the survival instinct that dominates. » Moved, but with an irreducible strength in her eyes, Maguette confides: “I will always fight for them, they are counting on me. This is Maguette! »
*In Senegal, sex workers can legally register as such, and thus benefit from a health and other monitoring record. *Anonymous and free toll-free toll-free number: 800 30 30
The coronavirus pandemic has once again demonstrated the importance of investing in health systems, strengthening equitable access to care and improving preparedness for epidemic prevention and control. Presented by Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organization, this approach is advocated by Solthis, an expert organization in health, which has been working in Africa for years. Read, in french, Dr. Serge Breysse’s opinion, published in the French daily L’Opinion on September 11th.
The ATLAS project was present at the 23rd World Conference on HIV/AIDS
HIV Self-Testing in West Africa: from the Field – Dr Aminata Saran Sidibé (Soutoura, Mali) – Dr Patricia Zougouni (Espace Confiance, Côte d’Ivoire) – Dr Odé Kanku Kabemba (ATLAS Project, Mali)
To see in replay : https://www.psi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Atlas-Project-HIVST-in-West-Africa.mp4
Satellite Symposium : Towards sustainability and scability of hivst: solutions for low-and middle-income countries
Presentation by Clémence Doumenc Aïdara, Director of the ATLAS project
Presentation by Dr Safiatou Thiam, Executive Secretary of CNLS Senegal
Presentation film HIVST in West Africa
Poster: Challenges of HIV self-tests distribution for index testing in a context where HIV status disclosure is low: preliminary experience of the ATLAS project in Bamako, Mali. Sokhna Boye (Centre for Population and Development, Research Institute for the Développement, Université Paris Descartes, Inserm) et al.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the ATLAS Project participates in the response by developing and/or promoting awareness tools adapted for vulnerable populations and those living with HIV.
After participating in equipping their partners with protective equipment; in order to ensure that their exercise could continue under optimal security conditions, the ATLAS Project teams worked, in conjunction with their implementing partners, on the development and implementation of awareness actions. In addition to the posters specifically developed, in collaboration with UNAIDS, for people living with HIV and reminding them of the particular conduct to be observed in the event of uncontrolled HIV infection, the materials published by the health authorities and visuals on the wearing of masks have been reproduced.
In Mali, the ATLAS project supports the measures of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and supports the broadcasting of awareness spots on community radio stations in French and Bambara on barrier gestures, thus making it possible to reach populations far from mass broadcasting channels. Two listeners of the free information line on COVID-19, hosted by PSI Mali’s KENEYAKO line, which already receives calls for ATLAS HIV self-test kits, are also supported by the Project to inform and orient people on the issue of coronavirus.
In Senegal, in order to increase the level of knowledge of the population, the ATLAS Project has financed and developed awareness programmes, broadcast on community radio stations in Mbour, Dakar and Ziguinchor. These weekly programmes, scheduled to be broadcast until the end of July, will systematically cover a reminder on barrier gestures and then devote forty minutes of airtime to a specific theme, accompanied by an expert to present the subject and answer listeners’ questions. While COVID-19, its modes of transmission, epidemiology and symptomatology will of course be discussed, programmes will also be devoted to vulnerabilities and prevention measures, the role of communities and continuity of care for PLWHA and vulnerable populations, the aim being to communicate accurate and accessible information in order to stop community transmissions.
Listen to the awareness messages of the Malian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs :
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the ATLAS Project is adapting its activities and participating in the response by providing support to its implementing partners.
In the context of the fight against HIV, in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, the ATLAS Project works in close collaboration with health actors, whether institutional or operational, from the public, associative or community sectors. As soon as the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in these countries, the Project undertook to support its partners in adapting their activities, protecting people and raising awareness of barrier gestures to limit the spread of the virus.
Maintenance of the activities of dispensing HIVST kits and first distributions of protective materials.
Activities to provide HIVST kits have been maintained in all sites where possible, while ensuring the safety of people and compliance with national guidelines aimed at limiting gatherings and respecting barrier gestures in particular. It is indeed essential that, in the context of this epidemic, access to health services remains possible, in complete safety: self-testing is precisely an opportunity to maintain access to knowledge of one’s HIV status while limiting contact. To this end, the ATLAS Project provides its partners with protective equipment, mainly in the form of batches of hydroalcoholic gel and masks, but also hand washing devices in Côte d’Ivoire. As Dr Fatou Seck, Coordinator of the Outpatient Treatment Unit / Addiction Management Unit (UTA/UPAM) in Mbour, Senegal, pointed out, “We are pleased to welcome your donation for the staff and vulnerable populations followed at the Mbour EPS. This will help us to better manage our patients with less risk of contamination by COVID-19. In Senegal, nearly 3,000 bottles of hydroalcoholic gel, 2,000 bottles of liquid soap, 20,000 masks and about 20 non-contact temperature-taking devices have already been given to the partners.
Awareness of barrier gestures
At the same time, and always with a view to preserving the population, special emphasis was placed on raising awareness of barrier gestures and knowledge of coronavirus disease. Thus, in each of its countries of action, the ATLAS Project participates financially in the reproduction of posters to raise awareness of barrier gestures. In Mali, an additional contribution has been allocated to finance radio spots broadcast in local languages on community radio stations. In Senegal, weekly awareness-raising programmes will be produced and broadcast on three community radio stations in the regions of Dakar, Mbour and Ziguinchor where the ATLAS Project is implementing the dispensing of HIV self-test kits.
Specific sensitization on COVID-19 for people living with HIV
Finally, in collaboration with UNAIDS, a poster dedicated to people living with HIV has been developed in order to make them aware of the specific behaviours to adopt in the face of this epidemic, such as the availability of three months of treatment for people on ARVs, or the particular need to respect barrier gestures for people with an unstable HIV infection, as they are more vulnerable to other infections. These posters will be available in our partners’ care centres.
In the context of the pandemic at #COVID19, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and some of its actors from Babi, Down South and Naija share with us their experiences of confinement: barrier gestures, life as a couple, loneliness, domestic violence, living with HIV, parenthood, social distances, STI prevention, fakes news…
Daniel, star of ShugaBabi, and partner of the ATLAS Project in Côte d’Ivoire, but also Dineo, Leo, Zamo, Bongi, Oga T, are mobilized to bring answers to our questions in this exceptional mini-serie. Find new episodes of MTVShuga Alone Together as well as videos of awareness and advice.