Samantha and the Tin Smith - An HIV-positive couple meets ends with a small loan World AIDS Day 2006
By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
November 27, 2006

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FROM an internet café to a beauty salon, People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA’s) are now able to start up or expand businesses to earn a steady income.

They can access small loans from the Institute for Private Enterprise Development (IPED) through a partnership of the joint Government of Guyana/U.S. government-funded HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Programme (GHARP) and big-hearted businesses taking their role in society seriously.

IPED hopes to reach 200 persons by the end of the year.

“Like all of our clients, people living with HIV/AIDS have hopes and aspirations,” said Dr. Leslie Chin, Chief Executive of IPED.

Since most PLWHA’s are poor, they often do not have anything to pledge in case the business fails and they are not able to repay the loan. This is where the businesses come in.

The Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and the Guyana Lottery Company (GT&T) both pledged an initial G$1M to provide for instances of bad loans.

“This particular idea appealed to us because of the impact that would be made in the areas of empowerment, job creation and the sustainability of livelihoods,” said Ms. Shirnette Noble, Marketing Officer of the Lottery Company.

IPED has designated one person to deal specifically with processing the loan applications of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Ms. Karen Boyle, Clinical Care and Community Officer of GHARP, said she has schooled the IPED loan officer on aspects of HIV/AIDS and people living with the disease.

Samantha Brown (names have been changed) found out she was positive five years ago but decided she didn’t want to seek treatment at the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic, as she was afraid of everyone finding out she was positive.

She had given birth to a daughter that same year, 2001, and it was only after her daughter became ill and was hospitalised that she herself decided to seek treatment.

As her health improved, Samantha joined a support group at Volunteer Youth Corps, one of GHARP’s local partners, and it was at one group session that she heard about the partnership to provide micro-financing to persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Nial Paul, IPED’s Loan Officer and the focal person working with PLWHAs seeking loans, was making the presentation that day and Samantha asked several questions about the loan as she thought it might be an interesting way for her to improve the life of her family. She was then invited to visit the IPED office.

The following day she visited Mr. Paul at his office and he provided her with the list of requirements necessary to process the loan. After looking at the list of requirements she felt it might be difficult.

However, she was determined to try so she went about securing a guarantor. Three days after she returned with her forms filled in she was granted the loan.

Samantha married Victor, also HIV-positive, five months ago.

Victor, who was a tin smith by trade, was himself a beneficiary of two loans from IPED. One loan was made prior to knowing his HIV status and then one under the GHARP partnership in July.

As Samantha knew they needed to expand the business so it could be more profitable, she decided to try securing a loan and investing the money in buying materials for their business.

Besides making coconut, nutmeg and vegetable graters, Samantha and Victor also make baking pans, rolling pins and scrubbing boards for washing clothes.

Before accessing the loan, Samantha said, they were unable to produce enough stock to sell every week and Victor had to work very long hours with little rest to get the work done.

Now their production is up, several of their family members are working along with them and it’s truly a family business.

“This is truly the best thing that has happened to me since learning I had HIV. I am able to make ends meet, we are comfortable. I am able to give my daughter who was born positive more nutritious food and even my doctor said to me that he has never seen me so happy. I feel so good that I can go back into society and feel like somebody,” said Samantha.

Samantha and her husband are truly a success story for the GHARP project as it continues to seek ways to make positive impacts on the lives of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

(** This is the third in a series of articles being published to coincide with World AIDS Day, which would be observed on December 1. Our thanks to USAID/GHARP)