Social Empowerment

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INTRODUCTION
The spread of HIV/AIDS is different from that of other epidemics that have occurred in human history, owing to the fact that it touches sexual behavior and death, and remains hidden for much of the time. The latency period for HIV to reach full blown AIDS on average is 10 years, and patients need long-term care and support. Mode of spread of the disease is another factor that makes it different from other recent diseases. Globally, an estimated 38.6 (33.4-46.0) million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2005.An estimated 4.1 million became newly infected with HIV, and estimated 2.8 million lost their lives to AIDS (UNAIDS, 2006). HIV/AIDS now causes more deaths than any other infectious diseases, having overtaken malaria and tuberculosis. It is the fourth biggest killer in the world (after heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases) and has become the single largest cause of death in Africa (Matlin & Spence, 2000). It has become a social catastrophe in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS turns children into orphans, women to widows and weakens the breadwinner. In addition to its appalling human consequences, it weakens societies, destroys productive forces, reduces life expectancy, and demolishes social structures (UNAIDS, 2002). HIV/AIDS is not only a terrifying illness; it is also a major challenge to development. The World Bank has defined empowerment as “the process of increasing capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes” to ‘build individual and collective assets, and to improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets” Empowerment - is about people -both women and men- taking control over their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems and developing self-reliance, and expressing their voice. It is both a process and an...
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