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Oritsé and AJ step out in Uganda for Comic Relief

DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: Oritsé and AJ with children in Uganda

FRESH FROM winning ITV1’s celebrity dance show Stepping Out, JLS star Oritsé Williams and his musician girlfriend AJ Azari, flew out to Uganda to see first-hand how money from Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative, which is co-funded by the UK Government, is changing the lives of women and children affected by HIV.

Sub-Saharan Africa carries the biggest burden of HIV in the world. In Uganda alone, 1.4 million people are thought to be living with HIV, including 190,000 children. Stigma and confusion about how the virus is spread means that people are often too scared to get tested and seek treatment, leaving millions of people suffering needlessly.

Oritsé and AJ visited the Kadama Widows Association, an organisation set up over 10 years ago by a group of inspirational widows who saw the desperate need to help those in their community living with HIV. The project offers a range of services, including assisting young people to access HIV testing, treatment and counseling.

Oritsè, a long-term supporter of Comic Relief, said: “My mum has Multiple Sclerosis and if she had been without medical support or someone to turn to for assistance, she wouldn’t have survived. It’s the same for the women we’ve met. If it wasn’t for Kadama Widows, they probably wouldn’t be alive today and their children would be alone.

“Growing up with illness in the family, you soon learn about stigma and how it can affect your whole life. It’s a big thing that the UK and Uganda have in common and need to address. Kadama Widows are doing a lot to tackle the stigma right at the heart of communities.”

LADIES’ DAY: Women from the Kadama Widows Association, strike a pose with Oritsé and AJ

Meeting healthy and happy HIV positive mothers, who had once been on the brink of death and too sick to care for their own children, was an extremely powerful experience for the couple, particularly for AJ seeing it from a woman’s point-of-view.

“I can’t begin to imagine what it must feel like to know there’s a high chance that you won’t be around to see your babies grow up,” AJ said. “The really amazing thing about Kadama Widows is that it’s not just about making their lives longer, it’s also making them stronger.

“You can see the determination in their eyes to not let their illness get the better of them, for their sake and their children’s. It was a lot to take in but it will stay with me forever.”

HIV support and education to ensure those living with the virus get the care they need is just one of the ways that the Common Ground Initiative is helping some of the world’s poorest people.

The Initiative works with UK organisations managed by members of the African Diaspora, those of African heritage who are able to use their close connection and understanding of the communities where they work to help reduce poverty and bring about positive lasting change.

To watch a short film about Oritsé and AJ’s trip to Uganda, click here:é-and-aj-step-out-uganda-comic-relief

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