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Background: Despite advances in HIV awareness and antiretroviral therapies, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) still experience stigma and have difficulties achieving personal and professional advancement, leading to negative mental health effects such as depression. Young PLWA should be given opportunities to contribute to their communities and better themselves.
Local Setting: Swaziland is a sub-Saharan country with a population of 1.3 million, and approximately 75% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. With a 28.8% adult HIV prevalence rate, Swaziland carries the highest burden of HIV in the world.
Methods: In 2016, researchers collaborated with local nonprofit organizations in Mbabane, Swaziland to recruit young PLWA between the ages of 19-24 for a weekly sustainable garden construction and maintenance project. With supervision, education and direction from local public and nonprofit officials, the young PLWA were given training to build and manage the garden.
Results: Starting March 2017, the garden produced its first harvest and every week, the young PLWA took home fresh vegetables for themselves and their families. A partnering HIV/AIDS clinic distributed surplus vegetables to patients. By July 2017, approximately 15-20 patients (including the young PLWA) received produce weekly. Study researchers in collaboration with local nonprofit partners assessed the capacity of the garden and set a goal to serve 50 patients weekly by December 2017 once the garden became fully productive.
Conclusion: When given guidance, young PLWA in Swaziland can effectively build and sustain a vegetable garden that serves themselves, their families, and their communities. This project will continue to empower young PLWA and provide a tangible skill set for sustainable farming within the agricultural economy of Swaziland.