The first thing that strikes you on meeting Peter Byansi is his unflappable nature. He smiles easily and speaks out readily, putting everyone at their ease. And when it comes to tackling HIV/AIDS, he speaks with particular passion. It is a disease that ravaged communities in Uganda especially in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. Peter has experienced the effects of this scourge through loss of close relatives, friends and neighbours.
Previously working with Kamwokya Christian Caring Community in Kampala city, he played a part in implementing a number of interventions on of HIV / AIDS prevention and in provision of care to those infected by the disease; services he felt his own community in Buikwe district was not benefiting from.
His work received a boost when in 2003 he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study his MSc in Social Development and Health at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. After doing his masters, he then embarked on fulfilling his dream and registeredAfrica Social Development and Health Initiatives (ASDHI), a community-based organization. Through ASDHI, he mobilised and educated communities about HIV/AIDS and encouraged individuals to test for HIV and seek treatment. To address the funding gap, ASDHI partnered with like-minded organisations like AIDS HealthCare Foundation, Makerere Walter Reed Project, and Tackle Africa to extend HIV and other health services to the fishing communities in his home district.
Peter has now been working in ASDHI for 10 years. He is using the skills and knowledge acquired from his master’s degree studies to curtail the HIV/AIDS epidemic in his home area. This has resulted into the development of a Motivation and Personal Development Skills manual currently being used by NGO’s like Youth Alive and Kamwokya Christian Caring Community to help young people make informed choices and decisions to live a healthy and productive life.
Peter has no regrets for quitting his city-based job in order to work full time for ASHDI. Through ASDHI efforts, 18,367 people have undergone voluntary counselling and testing and over 500 HIV positive individuals enrolled on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). Peter credits all this to the knowledge and connections he acquired while in the UK studying on the Commonwealth Scholarship. “While studying at Queen Margaret University, my research was on HIV and behaviour change and I looked at the factors responsible for behavioural change in Africa,” he says. He adds that the participatory approaches he learnt while at the university have been especially useful.
Currently a distance PhD student, Peter says the Commonwealth scholarship, opened up new opportunities and doors for him to make a significant positive change in his community. “For me the biggest happiness is when I see people on treatment and living for now over 8 years since commencement of treatment. We are really proud of the change because before, so many people were dying of HIV/AIDS.”