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Microfinance Responds to AIDS Pandemic

Wednesday, 05 Sep 2007

By: Brad Stave

For the past two decades, World Vision has been providing small loans in dozens of countries. World Vision's microfinance work has grown to serve over 500,000 clients in 2008 by providing over $400 million in loans within 47 countries. Through World Vision's microfinance subsidiary, VisionFund, the poor are accessing capital and changing their financial situations one loan at a time. Economic health is an important part of development work in countries where World Vision operates. Often, World Vision is able to couple microloans with other services, such as healthcare, education, clean water, relief/refugee work, and HIV/AIDS response.

In 2006, World Vision launched a new program, called PRISMA, aimed at improving the lives of women living with AIDS in East Africa. Promoting Rural Integration and Security through Microfinance in Africa, or PRISMA, operates in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. PRISMA seeks to improve the lives of very poor women in rural East Africa by combining economic development assistance with improved access to HIV/AIDS care, mitigation services, and education. Women are a primary focus because they tend to invest additional income in improving the lives of their children.

The need for effective microfinance resources amongst women living with AIDS in East Africa is great. Currently, more than 2.7 million women are HIV-positive. Millions more, on little income, are caring for others infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children. PRISMA is responding to this need by providing solid responses to real issues. Some of these responses include:

• Increasing the number of World Vision’s female loan clients in five East African countries from 50,000 to 210,000
• Improving the level of net assets among 75 percent of loan clients
• Through lending, creating 277,000 jobs for women and sustaining 1.3 million jobs for women
• Improving care and support for 150,000 orphans and vulnerable children, and impacting 1.8 million children overall
• Offering savings accounts for 150,000 orphans and vulnerable children that can be used for education or to start up a business

Initiatives to engage women living with HIV/AIDS in East Africa with the benefits of microfinance are making a difference. As peer educators work alongside loan officers, small loans are directed to women living with HIV/AIDS who need the additional benefit of sustainable economic opportunities and savings programs.

Stephanie Nyiarambabariye of Kigali, Rwanda, lost her husband to AIDS in 1999. She was tested that same year, while pregnant, and found to be HIV-positive. Stephanie has accepted her status, and is now very active in her community visiting sick families and encouraging others to do so. World Vision is providing counseling for Stephanie and a small loan to help her purchase produce to sell and earn an income.

Many women like Stephanie are benefiting from microfinance opportunities made possible through coupling microfinance to HIV/AIDS care and education. To learn more about other ways in which microfinance is changing the landscape of poverty through engaging in other vehicles of development.

Please click on the icon below to download VisionFund's latest report on microfinance integration.