Fashionable jobs for people living with HIV

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Fashionable jobs for people living with HIV

02 February 2007

Latest styles, smartest colours and trendiest cuts will be central to an AIDS initiative in Algeria designed to help people living with HIV get back into the workplace.

The Algerian association of people living with HIV, El Hayet, has launched a pilot project for people living with HIV where participants will be trained in the production of haute-couture and prêt-à-porter clothing.

The training is led and designed by a professional dressmaker and the course will allow participants to learn about the tools and techniques of the fashion industry, in particular designing, model making, styling and sewing. Candidates who successfully complete the course will be able to obtain official recognition of their new trade from the National Chamber of Trade and Handicraft.


Zohira Merah, President of El Hayet with
workshop trainer Mr Redouane
“Algerian society can be unforgiving,” said Zohira Merah, president of El Hayet. “But people living with HIV have the right to work, to be creative and to support ourselves without having to rely on handouts or charity,” she added.

The 12-month programme, which began in September 2006, is supported by the UNAIDS Secretariat and UNAIDS Cosponsors ILO and UNDP. The project has been made possible through grants from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The initiative provides innovative economic opportunities for the participants, who will be paid for their work during the 12-month period. In addition, all the garments created during the course of the year will be sold with funds raised going to support people living with or affected by HIV in Algeria. “The economic element of this project will both help to attract new candidates and ensure motivation is kept alive to build a longer term career plan,” Zohira Merah said.

“In this world we need to learn how to take care of ourselves, that’s why I enrolled in this programme,” said one of the participants. “It’s hard to find work in today’s society, particularly for a woman. I’ve been living with HIV for 12 years and this course given me the opportunity take control of my life and be independent. When I’ve finished I’ll be able to pass on what I’ve learnt to other people living with or affected by HIV which is a good feeling,” she added.

On completion, the course offers new opportunities for people living with HIV to access sustainable economic independence thanks to the agreement established between the National Agency for Administration of micro-credits and the El Hayet. Specialized trainers will help interested and successful participants to apply for micro-credits ranging from US$ 400 to US$ 5,500, reimbursable over a period of up to five years.

“This project is a clear example of how the principle of greater involvement of people living with HIV can be achieved,” said Andy Seale, Chief of Civil Society Partnerships at UNAIDS. “Longer term sustainable solutions such as this workshop in Algeria are an essential part of the response to AIDS,” he added.

“As life-saving anti retroviral therapy becomes more widely available we need more focus on ensuring people living with HIV have the opportunity to fulfil their potential as productive members of society and be economically independent. Often this entails reintegration into the workforce but due to the stigma and discrimination still associated with HIV infection this is not always an easy process. The project is an excellent example of how this can be facilitated in a thoughtful way,” said Kate Thomson, Partnership Adviser at UNAIDS.