Sierra Leone’s Association for Rural Development (ARD)’s operations manager, David Kamara, has explained that, “Poverty is a key reason why people are infected with HIV/AIDS”.
Speaking on the role which microfinance played in the alleviation of suffering due to HIV/AIDS and its prevention, he said, “by providing loans and giving them HIV/AIDS education we hope to help poor people to be economically empowered. We aim for 10% of our about 5,000 clients to become peer educators, selling condoms as part of their businesses.
Not only do they themselves make a profit from the condoms they sell, but they are also respected by local business people who travel into the hinterland and outside the country buying rice, palm oil etc.
The people they meet consider them business people, so when these women talk about HIV/AIDS, people really listen to them.” On Saturday, during the commemoration of World AIDS Days, peer educators and staff from ARD joined the march from the Youyi building to the Victoria Park to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone. Microfinance clients are mainly those on a low income who have the skills and talents to grow their businesses, given a small boost of income.
A typical microfinance client would be a female market trader, using the loan she gets to buy more stock and make bigger profits. Microfinance institutions give commercial loans and provide access for people who may not meet lending requirements by the big banks. It appeals especially to small business people because they don’t need huge collateral (such as a house) to get a loan, and because the staff at microfinance institutions are trained to be friendly and approachable, especially with those who are illiterate or nervous of the formality of formal banks.