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Keeping The Promises Of HIV/AIDS Treatment

It’s an unusual kind of organization -- physicians coming together to advocate as well as treat. Ugandan doctors have formed the Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA), which they can use to pressure their government and others concerned to ensure that certain health care services get to those who need them most.

At a time when donors and beneficiaries disagree on transparency and accountability issues, the group has actually built mutual trust with its donors. Asked why the doctors got involved, AGHA member Dr. Julian Atim says for people who fight the problems on a daily basis, getting more involved is the right thing to do. “We felt that we had the voice and the knowledge, and [that] working hand in hand with our government will balance the two.”

Moving beyond advocacy

AGHA has gone beyond working with the government. The group works with a U.S.-based organization, Physicians for Human rights (PHR), which sponsors projects to deliver health care services, especially to HIV patients. AGHA also pioneered the creation of a student healthcare advocacy group called Students for Equity in Health Care, which now has chapters in all Ugandan medical schools. Atim says in its first year alone, its membership has grown to 25 percent of all medical students in the country. She says this indicates “a realization that as tomorrow’s health care workers, our attitude will determine what kind of healthcare workers [we will have] tomorrow.”

Building mutual trust.

Atim lauds AGHA’s rapport with donor PHR and credits all the success to the principles of transparency and accountability: “making sure we do the actual work we have promised to do, writing the reports, giving the feedback, and then the rate at which we are growing.” She pleads with other donors not to fail in their promises to millions of Africa’s vulnerable. She urges the donors to discuss what they actually want out of sponsoring because, she says, mistakes can be corrected for the benefit of the sick and needy, whose voices can be heard only through their NGOs. “Let them not fail us, let them work with us. We need them for the benefit of those on the ground.”

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