West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF) is a non-governmental not-for-profit organization, registered in Ghana in 1999 with the Registrations General and the Social Welfare Department.

The West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF) is committed to contributing to the Global Agenda of Ending AIDS by 2030 through the provision of preventative services through viral suppression in a client-centered approach. By forming partnerships, WAAF/IHCC are able to address other factors linked to HIV such as stigma and discrimination, abuse of human rights, poverty, gender inequality, and inequitable healthcare access. By working with communities, themselves, WAAF/IHCC uses local expertise to ensure effective and efficient outcomes.

WAAF works both in urban, sub urban, rural, and extremely hard to reach communities and focuses its work on the people who need it the most. With the agenda of leaving no one behind, WAAF/IHCC provides tailored services to corporate bodies as part of their social responsibility and for a reasonable fee which goes back to sustain the work of the organizations.

WAAF / IHCC has physical presence in 4 regions of Ghana. With some regional offices overseeing work in adjacent regions as well as the opening of satellite offices for specific projects when needed and having representatives in other regions, WAAF / IHCC maintains a presence in all 16 regions of Ghana. Additionally, WAAF has a presence in some West African countries through partnerships with like-minded organizations.

WAAF has since inception, focused on HIV, however as with many other devastating epidemics in history, vulnerability to HIV has been increased by factors such as poverty, discrimination, and social exclusion. Efforts to address HIV therefore go beyond the provision of direct services such as treatment. As such, WAAF has found itself over the years delving into other areas of work such as gender mainstreaming, economic empowerment, fighting stigma, universal health coverage, and fighting comorbidities such as Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B&C, Cervical Cancer as well as non-communicable diseases. Examples of Past projects can be viewed here, and Current projects here.

Ultimately, WAAF’s goal is to ensure healthy individuals with no one left behind, either in the nation of Ghana or the West African sub-region.

A more detailed description of the areas WAAF/IHCC work are:

Section No. 1

Preventative Medicine

Preventative medicine has been at the core of WAAF’s efforts since its inception. Starting off with a focus on HIV prevention, some of WAAF’s efforts were the establishing of a formal HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Prevention program in 2006 dubbed – the Passion Squad. This project will ensure many in-school youth have access to prevention messages that would enable them to make informed choices where their health, especially sexual health was concerned. More on this project can be read here. Over the years, prevention efforts widened to include many conditions and especially those HIV positive individuals are prone to. Focus areas include the following – Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and C, Malaria, Non communicable conditions such as – Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity and cancers such as prostate, breast and cervical cancer. Whilst WAAF provides prevention through community efforts, bringing the services to the people through medical outreaches, the clinic uses treatment as a gateway to prevention where clients are educated on prevention as they come in for services. WAAF and IHCC together use social media as a means of promoting health prevention

Section No. 2

Clinical Services

WAAF is one of the few local NGOs in Ghana privileged to have an onsite clinic, which is the International Health Care Center (IHCC). This enables WAAF to provide the entire spectrum of health services ranging prevention through treatment. Opened to the general population, the clinic offers general medical care to people of the Haatso community in Accra but also to many who come from far and wide. The model of WAAF/IHCC however, focuses on HIV and provides services across the care cascade where at the treatment side, the management of opportunistic infections and the provision of anti-retroviral medicines is the focus. This therefore includes ensuring clients are in the best of states to adhere to their ARVs. Nutrition, therefore, forms an integral part of WAAF/ IHCC’s efforts. People living with HIV need good nutrition to ensure they can stay on ARVs and that children can grow up healthy without any developmental issues. In collaboration with the Ghana Health Services, WAAF has over the years, offered nutritional support to many PLHIV including children and some efforts have been the provision of sorghum, vitamin A fortified cooking oils, Tom Brown (a rich porridge), Plumpy nut specifically for children and other supplements.
In partnership with Vitamin Angels from California, WAAF/IHCC were able to provide nutritional supplements to many pregnant women as well as vitamins and de-wormers to children. WAAF/IHCC also has an in house program called “Healthy Mother equals Healthy Baby” typically shortened as HM=HB, an initiative developed and supported by its ambassador Stella Lowe of Glad Star Ministries Inc, and supported by WAAF/IHCC’s partners Save a Million Lives and Queens Chapter of WAAF (QWAAF). HM=HB ensures that identified vulnerable HIV pregnant women have access to monthly nutritional packages that support them in staying healthy to be able to deliver healthy babies free of HIV.

Section No. 3

Care and Support

Providing long term support and care for persons living with chronic conditions such as those living with HIV, orphans who have been affected by HIV and AIDS, PLHIVs infected with TB and/or Hepatitis B or C forms an integral part of the work of WAAF. This is important for adherence to treatment and overall well being. Examples of support projects that have been offered by WAAF/IHCC over the years are:
1. the almond tree project
2. the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) program
3. human rights and stigma reduction

Almond Tree Project

The Almond Tree Group was established in 2004. Meant to keep stronger patients who were on admission at IHCC busy, these ones were brought together in a room where they would spend time talking to each other, encouraging one another. Over time, some started to engage in recreational activities such as making jewelry from beads, folding laundry, etc. Eventually, so many patients joined that the venue was changed from the room to under a big Almond Tree on the premises of WAAF/IHCC, which gave the name to the group. The Almond Tree Group was established. This group over time evolved to become one of the first support groups of Persons Living with HIV. It sustained its membership through the skills-based training program in crafts like beads making, batik/ tye-dye with assistance from the AIDS Committee of London, Ontario Canada, through a partnership fostered by the Canadian Crossroads International. WAAF assisted the trainees with the marketing of their products at a shop specifically put together on the premises of WAAF/IHCC and by having international interns/volunteers buy them as souvenirs and take them back home after their time with WAAF/IHCC. The success of the Almond Tree Group was thanks to two CCI interns at WAAF at the time, Emily Beam and Joanne Helen who supported group members in the production and sale of their goods.

In partnership with ECLOF, WAAF later on provided start-up capital for the trainees which enabled them to become self-sufficient.

The group has since grown to become an income-generating one, ensuring not only the self-sufficiency for its members but also providing an avenue for members of the group to receive support and be there for one another in many ways. Today the group has registered itself as a community-based organization to enable it access funding to fund some of its own projects.

Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC)

Since children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV can experience lives full of stress, trauma, and loneliness, the Nkabom (a word that in the Ghanaian Twi language means togetherness) put together by the West Africa AIDS Foundation to assist and assess OVCs (orphans & vulnerable children) in Accra, in 2004 so that based on their unique situations, support could be provided. With assistance from the Ghana International Women’s Club, the project was able to start the support of caregivers of these vulnerable children in various ways.

The program provided care for the physical, mental, and emotional health of these children who had been orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV. Each year between 5 and 10 children continued to be assisted until 2016 when the project came to an end. WAAF/IHCC however continue to help specific cases as and when we come across them and with the support of mainly individuals and groups we are able to assist vulnerable families, single mothers, and families in general who are struggling with support with basic needs such as food, clothing, toiletries and very importantly with support to ensure the children enroll and/or remain in school.

Human Rights & Stigma Reduction

Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations such as female sex workers, men who have sex with men, and lesbians reduce access to critical services, adversely affect health outcomes, and undermines human rights. As an organization that respects everyone, WAAF observes the rights of all.

WAAF has zero-tolerance for any form of stigma and ensures stigma reduction activities are standard in all project implementations. WAAF’s stigma reduction efforts and the safeguarding of human rights is through the creation of unity and carrying the single message that we the people representing our professions and communities are against stigma. WAAF for example uses community members such as MSM or FSW for projects that specifically work for these communities, WAAF also has various policies within the organization that foster belonging such as sexual harassment policy, confidentiality policy, Equal rights policy and WAAF has continued to employ individuals from diverse communities as paid staff and support staff of its efforts. In 2014, WAAF/IHCC partnered with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to create demand for their Online Discrimination Reporting System, an online system housed on the CHRAJ website and which can also be accessed through a specific toll-free mobile number and/or by walking to a focal officer at a helpdesk housed at CHRAJ, meant to assist PLHIV and KPs who have suffered any form of rights violation, stigma, and discrimination. Most recently, to fight health facility-related stigma, that is stigma perpetrated by health care workers, WAAF/IHCC have introduced virtual consultations where clients are able to consult with their healthcare workers from the comfort of their homes or workplaces through telemedicine. This WAAF/IHCC feels will complement years of efforts to fight the healthcare-related stigma that has always taken place in the form of training of healthcare workers.

Section No. 4

Differentiated service delivery

Having patients at the center of all our work, WAAF played an active role in advocating for differentiated service delivery and went on to also implement it. Simplifying and adapting HIV services across the cascade, to ensure they reflect the preferences and expectations of various groups living with HIV/TB, WAAF has continued to use its mobile clinic VAN to bring services closer to the communities. Additionally, WAAF continues to look for innovative ways to ensure the burden of clients in reaching services is minimized. An example is the use of telemedicine where clients can visit caregivers from the comfort of their communities/homes.

Section No. 5

Capacity Building

The experience WAAF has gained during its so many years of operation dictates that for civil society organizations to make any significant impact on the wellbeing of the citizens they claim to be representing or working for, they must engage with the worlds of politics and public institutions.
CSOs must seek to help less powerful citizens have a voice in the social and political arena. Many groups have been identified as having clear needs but because they have such a significant lack of resources and political power, their needs are often not translated into demand. The role of civil society organizations is to make these groups visible, so they are able to participate in the world of politics and influence public institutions to better serve their needs.
In operation since 1999 has allowed for enough experience building for WAAF to understand that those directly affected and infected are the main ones to put up the fight for change and for their rights. WAAF, therefore, appreciates the need for inclusion of HIV and TB communities in the delivery of HIV and TB health care in Ghana and better still empowering them to take charge of their own affairs. Hence WAAF joined a few other allies in establishing the Non-State Actors for Health and Development platform that together with communities advocate for enhanced health outcomes.

Section No. 6

Project Management

Since 1999, WAAF has had the opportunity of working on numerous projects, both donor funded and self-financed projects. Whilst some projects have solely been implemented by WAAF, others have been co-implemented in partnership with other NGOs. These exposures have enabled WAAF to receive numerous training in project management ranging report writing, Monitoring and Evaluation, Financial management, organizational development and much more. WAAF in turn has been able to over time pass these knowledge and skills on to its second-tier partner organizations and in the process continued to enhance its own capacity.

Section No. 7

Research, Sharing of Lessons and Knowledge & Advocacy

WAAF believes infusing research with patient experience will improve research. As such WAAF allows its facility to be used by many as a research site. Many PhD candidates, MPH candidates as well as other graduates and undergraduates from within Ghana and from around the globe have continued to do so. Additionally, WAAF periodically conducts surveys as well as uses its data to inform its programmatic interventions ensuring efficiency in the projects it implements. It also allows for facts that can be used for advocacy purposes.
WAAF has always committed to ongoing dialogue and interactive forms of communication such as focus group discussions and interactive community meetings to act on findings and recommendations. WAAF also regularly employs other communication media such as key stakeholders consultations and debriefings as well as the use of various media outlets – social media, radio and shared databases, formal reports, summary discussions to disseminate information to other stakeholders such as district, regional and national level departments and agencies, external funders and international agencies to support future action.
WAAF/IHCC continue to be a popular site for a diverse group of students and individuals such as PhD, MPH, Global Public Health, Social work, Medicine, Nursing, International development studies and many more and this has led to WAAF/IHCC vamping up the Internship Program. More about this can be read here