The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) is an indigenous HIV and AIDS service initiative, registered in Uganda as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). It is a pioneer non-public actor in the HIV and AIDS response in Uganda and sub Saharan Africa. TASO is a membership organisation with over 4,000 subscriber members.
Since inception in 1987, TASO grown into a household name in the HIV and AIDS response in the country. It is now one of the largest institutions providing the most comprehensive HIV prevention, care and support services.
The Founding of TASO
TASO was founded in 1987 by Noerine Kaleeba and a group of 15 volunteers who were determined to do something to fight against AIDS. At that time, little was known about the disease but had caused unprecedented stigma and discrimination to the individuals and families associated with it. The membership of the founding group consisted of Chanda Williams, Charles Sentamu(RIP), Christopher Kaleeba(RIP),Collins Williams, Dan Otoole (RIP), David Lule (RIP), Dr. Jane Mulemwa, Dr. Noerine Kaleeba, Jason Bazzebulala (RIP), Lydia Tamale, Mary K. Lukubo, Nampologoma (RIP), Nesta Banyenzaki (RIP), Peter Sebanja, Prof. Elly Katabira and Rose Ojamuge (RIP). Among the group members, seven of them were living with HIV.
The coming together of this group was premised on a need to provide emotional support and compassionate care to persons and families affected by HIV and AIDS. The purpose was to make the affected people feel accepted as human beings with dignity and have their hope restored to be able to live with the challenges of the disease. The binding force that distinguished this group was that they were suffering from stigma and discrimination because of either living or being associated with HIV infection and AIDS. This group was very committed to this course and offered their own resources and time to reach out to infected persons in their homes and at the hospital.
At the start of this initiative, the group was completely informal without any structures and formal name. The members would hold informal meetings in their homes and workplaces to provide mutual psychological and social support. The consistent message the group had and demonstrated to families they got in contact with was that HIV infection was not transmitted by casual contact and that the sick needed better care, support and treatment to live with hope, reduced pain and to die with dignity.
On 11th November 1987, the group agreed to identify their efforts with a carefully crafted name, The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). They agreed on some minimum structural arrangements to make their work more formal, including getting an office space and office bearers. This arrangement laid a very firm foundation on which the volunteer initiative has grown into a household name in HIV and AIDS response in Uganda and Africa.
TASO was registered as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) with the Government NGO Board in 1991. This was preceded by the drafting and enactment of the TASO constitution by the first Board of Trustees (BOT) appointed the same year.
TASO has since established an infrastructure network of 11 service centres, 4 regional offices, and 1 training centre of excellence and 1 capacity building project and these are situated in the major towns of Uganda namely; Entebbe, Gulu, Jinja, Kampala (Mulago), Masaka, Masindi, Mbale, Mbarara, Moroto, Rukungiri, Soroti, Tororo. These centres are well equipped to provide quality services to the clientele and form part of the national health infrastructure.
TASO Mission and Vision
Since inception, TASO Mission has remained to;
“To contribute to a process of preventing HIV infection, restoring hope and improving the quality of life of persons, families and communities affected by HIV infection and disease”
The TASO Vision is to see;
“A World without HIV”
The TASO Philosophy is;
“Living positively with HIV”
Living Positively with HIV is about understanding the implications of HIV infection and undertaking positive choices to prevent HIV infection and copying with the challenges associated with it. Living Positively with HIV also entails adopting strategies that enhance the quality of life and wellbeing. Living positively applies to HIV positive and HIV negative people, families, communities as well as institutions for better health and socio-economic outcomes.
- Obligation to people infected and affected by HIV infection and disease
- Equal rights, equal opportunities and shared responsibilities
- Human dignity
- Family spirit
TASO Membership Philosophy
TASO is a subscriber membership organisation of individuals and institutions with a shared vision of a “World without HIV”. The TASO subscriber membership philosophy is an invitation to all to join TASO in the HIV and AIDS response. It is premised on the recognition that by working together, more shall be achieved in the HIV and AIDS response and that no single individual, institution or country can stop the spread of HIV and resolve the challenges caused by its infection and disease. There are over 4,150 active TASO subscriber members in Uganda and outside the country. Besides the subscriber members, TASO has a large following of friends from all over the world.
TASO Core Services
Today TASO is one of the largest indigenous Non Governmental Organization providing a comprehensive package of HIV prevention and AIDS care and support services in Uganda and Africa. Through the years, TASO has cared for over 300,000 individuals living with HIV and reached out to over 900,000 members of their families. Over 50,000 People living with HIV under the care of TASO are receiving life prolonging Anti-Retroviral (ARVs). 75% of these clients receive their ARV drug refills through Community Drug Distribution Points (CDDPs) which constitute a strong component of community engagement in the response. Annually, TASO cares for over 100,000 clients.
The TASO core services in the HIV response are;
- Comprehensive HIV prevention services using combination prevention package
- HIV and AIDS Counseling and Testing, care and support services
- HIV and AIDS treatment services, including Anti-Retroviral Therapy
- HIV and AIDS training and capacity development
- HIV and AIDS advocacy and networking
TASO employs a competent cadre of 703 service providers and managers in the core service areas to deliver HIV and AIDS services to the clientele. There are also about 50 volunteers with various competencies who bolster service delivery at the various TASO units and service centres. Besides, TASO has mobilized and trained over 6,000 community volunteers and expert clients who offer minimum HIV prevention, care and support services in their communities.
In 2012, TASO commemorated her silver jubilee of great HIV and AIDS service under the theme “Celebrating 25 years of positive living: the foundation of HIV prevention, care and support”. In the same year, TASO concluded one planning cycle (2008-2012) and is transitioning into a new planning cycle, 2013-2017. TASO priorities in the next 5 year planning cycle are anchored to the global priorities including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the HIV Free Generation drive among others and the national response goals. The overarching goal of the new TASO strategic plan is;
To contribute to the goal of the revised NSP 20011/12-2014/15 to achieve universal access targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and social support and protection.
The TASO Strategic plan 2013-2017 has the following strategic goals;
- Contribute to the national prevention goal to reduce HIV incidence by 30%.
- Contribute to the national goal to improve the quality of life of PLHIV by mitigating the health effects of HIV/AIDS.
- Contribute to the national goal to improve the level of access of services for PLHIV, OVC and other vulnerable populations.
- Contribute to the national goal to build an effective and efficient system that ensures quality, equitable timely services by 2015
In this new strategic plan TASO plans to re-engineer and focus greater attention to evidence based HIV prevention models so as to contribute to the process of reducing cases of new HIV infections. In addition, cost efficient models are to be innovated and promoted to ensure quality lives and livelihoods of people living with HIV. Partnerships will remain a key component among the strategies to realize the goal of zero new HIV infections.