Author of United Against AIDS.
Peter Ssebbanja is the author of STRATEGIES FOR HOPE case study book no. 17, United Against AIDS. A physiotherapist by training, he was one of 15 people who founded TASO - The AIDS Support Organisation - in Kampala, Uganda, in 1987. This was during the early days of the HIV epidemic, and TASO was in fact the first community-based response to HIV and AIDS in East Africa. Peter recalls:
“When we started, the group had no name, no organisational structure and no funds. We were just a small group of concerned individuals doing our best to support one another and others in need of help because of the impact of AIDS on our lives. ... The group stood together against AIDS-related discrimination and stigma. We also worked hard to demonstrate to medical staff, the relatives of patients and other community members the kind of compassionate care and treatment which all patients need and deserve.”
TASO has since grown into one of the largest NGOs working in the field of HIV care, support and prevention in sub-Saharan Africa, with 696 staff (including counsellors, nurses, doctors and other care-givers) working in 11 service centres throughout the country. TASO pioneered key concepts, such as “living positively with HIV/AIDS”, and services such as pre- and post-test counselling, which have since become integral to HIV programmes throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In December 2013, a total of 90,256 clients were attending TASO service centres and 66,918 people (clients and family members) were receiving social and economic support from TASO.
In his book United Against AIDS: the Story of TASO, Peter SSebbanja tells the story of how TASO grew from tiny, humble beginnings into a major player on the national stage of HIV and AIDS. It is an inspiring and instructive story, in which Peter played many key roles until his retirement in 2012, when he opened a physiotherapy clinic on the outskirts of Kampala.
When Peter looks back on his 25 years of service with TASO, he is struck by the enormous improvements in the lives of people living with HIV: “The introduction of antiretroviral drugs was a real game-changer in the history of the epidemic. It made a huge difference to the lives of so many TASO clients. They are now able to live happily, working normally and taking care of their families. Many women TASO clients have also delivered healthy, HIV-free babies.”
Note: In 1989, STRATEGIES FOR HOPE published a booklet, TASO: Living Positively with AIDS, which documents the origins and early years of TASO in Uganda. This was followed in 1990 by a documentary film of the same name. In 2007, to celebrate TASO’s 20th anniversary, STRATEGIES FOR HOPE published Peter Ssebbanja’s book, United Against AIDS: the Story of TASO, also accompanied by a documentary film. These books and films are essential source materials on the history of community-based responses to the HIV epidemic in Uganda.
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