United Against AIDS: the Story of TASO tells the story of the first 20 years of this remarkable Ugandan organisation. The book is number 17 in the STRATEGIES FOR HOPE series, and the film is the sixth produced by STRATEGIES FOR HOPE.
Twenty years ago, a group of 16 people began meeting in Kampala to share their experiences of how AIDS was affecting their lives. No-one in the group had any training in how to deal with AIDS. Seven members of the group were themselves HIV-positive.The group formed The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), the first organised, community-based response to the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Within two years, all seven HIV-positive co-founders of TASO had died. But TASO has since grown into one of the largest and most widely respected NGOs in Africa. It now provides over 80,000 HIV-positive people and their families with services such as counselling, medical treatment and social support.
All TASO services are provided free of charge, including antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has transformed the lives of thousands of TASO clients and their families. 18,000 TASO clients, most of whom are parents, currently receive ART.
In 1990, STRATEGIES FOR HOPE produced a book and a film entitled TASO: living positively with AIDS, about this ground-breaking organisation. Now, STRATEGIES FOR HOPE and TASO have produced a new book and film, both entitled United Against AIDS: the Story of TASO, to mark the 20th anniversary of TASO’s establishment in November 2007.
Peter Ssebbanja, the author of the 100-page book, was one of the original founding members of TASO and still works for the organisation. Noerine Kaleeba, TASO’s founder and first director, speaks at length on the 49-minute film about the ‘family spirit’ which has inspired TASO staff and volunteers to maintain high standards while expanding rapidly. In both the book and the film, TASO clients describe how the organisation has empowered them to ‘live positively with HIV’ - a term coined by TASO twenty years ago, which has since resonated throughout the world.
The new book and film also address the challenges which TASO faces. These include, for example, high levels of HIV prevalence in the North of Uganda, which has been plagued by warfare for two decades. Another major challenge is HIV prevention within marriages and other long-term relationships: 64% of TASO clients live in ‘discordant’ relationships, in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative.