In the late 80’s HIV became a big issue about everywhere in Uganda as well as in Africa in general. A lot of people were dying in front of their family because of this virus. Mostly every family lost a family member. Nobody wanted to talk about HIV/AIDS and there was a big ignorance among the communities. In addition to that, people thought that if someone contracted HIV it was because of a bad luck. They strongly believed in witchcraft and not in the possibility that it could be a real disease. To contract HIV became a crime. People experienced a lot of stigma and discrimination and the one infected and affected couldn’t accept they contracted the virus. This is the reason why the government started investing resources to reduce the spread of HIV in the country. They wanted to make people understand the disease and how the virus is contracted. The government really wanted to expand the knowledge of the virus. But people’s behavior was not changing.
How did I decide to start KIFAD? When I had just graduated from Makerere University, Kampala in 2000, I started looking for jobs. I was lucky I had an opportunity to work for Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rakai Community Based AIDS Project (RACOBAP), in Rakai District in south West Buganda. The overall goal of the project was to reduce the incidence of HIV transmission and mitigate the adverse socio-economic impact of AIDS. The first AIDS cases in Uganda were reported in Rakai District in 1982 and the disease spread rapidly among the general population with severe side effects not only on the population's health but also on its social and economic conditions.
The population of Rakai was particularly vulnerable to this sexually transmitted disease due to the high percentage of migrant laborers and transit traders and drivers who rapidly spread the virus among the general population. Within very few years, cases were recorded along main trade routes in the district and the relentless growth of the problem was revealed in the 1993 research conducted by the Rakai Project (Colombia University – USA). The research showed that Rakai district was one of the world most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
While I was working there I experienced and realized that the same issues were going on as in my hometown, Nansana, Wakiso District. The people were not well informed about HIV. When I went back home, I knew I had to change something. I couldn’t let all the people die in front of me. More and more children lost their parents. I asked myself how we can reduce HIV, how we can support orphans and children and how we can support vulnerable people. How can we reduce the information / knowledge gap about HIV/AIDS. I wanted to mobilize families to support each other and to really improve their lives.
That’s why in 2001 we decided with other interested and other equally concerned community members to start KIFAD as a small informal group in Nansana. It was mainly focused on grieving, counseling, comforting each other and offer psychosocial support especially to all families who had lost their loved one to HIV/AIDS. We tried to fill the information gap. I tried to share my experience in HIV/AIDS and in community management with the community. That´s how the process started…
In 2004 KIFAD has been registered as a legal established non-governmental organization by Wakiso District Local government and the NGO Board, Ministry of Internal Affairs. Our serious work as an organization started at this point. Additionally we have interacted with other organizations and focused on our expansion. Since then we have never stopped working to ensure that we do our best to change people´s daily life.
How does this name KIFAD come from? The name KIFAD – KIYITA FAMILY ALLIANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT – is for me really symbolic and sentimental as it’s a reminder of my father’s name Kiyita, who passed away after contracting HIV. I wanted to commemorate in my own way his incredible and engaged work he did among the communities and especially the vulnerable children and their families. I’m sure that’s also the reason why I’m so involved in my community to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families as well as the socioeconomically disadvantaged people living in resource-constrained settings.
KIFAD is a long-term process, and today the work of a really inspiring and encouraging team of 13 employees, national and international volunteers and interns. Thanks to our donors and people that believe in our work we can establish KIFAD as a trusted organization. But our work is of course not finished. We are still learning and growing as fast as we can, with the resources we have.
Bob Richard Bongole, Programme Manager