In Uganda, markets are being used to bring HIV testing and treatment to both vendors and customers. The Market Vendors AIDS Project is one of the community-based programs on display at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. Angelina Wapakabulo is a Ugandan social worker, who helped organized the project. She spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

Angelina Wapakabulo is a Ugandan social worker, who helped organized the project.

?The Market Vendors AIDS Project is an intervention that focuses on HIV/AIDS services that are provided in the market place. Services include sensitizing the market community about HIV and AIDS, educating them on what the virus does to the body, as well as educating the market community on how they can prevent themselves from catching the virus.?

The Market Vendors AIDS Project works in partnership with the US-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the local ngo Uganda Cares, which set up a clinic providing anti-retroviral drugs.

?So what we have developed is an HIV service model in the market community that is comprehensive, where a market vendor can access the education, the counseling and testing, as well as the anti-retroviral drugs all within the market.?

The project operates in three Kampala markets. The biggest is the St. Balikuddembe market, also known as Owino, with up to 50,000 vendors. The others are the Park Yard and Nakawa markets.

Wapakabulo says the market vendors suggested they sell such items as exercise books, pens and umbrellas with AIDS messages printed on them. She says in Owino, they take it a step further.

?We have a big public address system with horn speakers spread throughout the market. And at least twice a day, you are able to pass on HIV/AIDS messages. And this is done by the vendors who have been trained in broadcasting skills. And they do it in the local language. They do short, very short skits. But that?s also one way they themselves recommended. And it?s working well, because at least twice a day, every vendor, or most of the vendors in the market, will be able to listen to a message.?

She says one reason why testing, counseling and treatment are available in the market is because vendors work long hours. Many arrive at 5:30 in the morning and don?t leave until 10 at night.

?Seventy percent of the market vendors are women. And knowing the vulnerability of the women with HIV and AIDS, we just felt there was gap that needed to be filled. And the only way it could be done was by taking the services where these vendors are.?

Angelina Wapakabulo says not only the vendors benefit, but the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the markets on a regular basis.

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