“CHAT is one of the leading sexual health awareness and HIV/AIDS Charitable Organisations in the UK.”

The need for this organisation was recognised in 1991 and officially formed and registered as a charity in 1993. It was recognised in 1991 due to one community member who became very sick and could not obtain medical assistance because of various reasons. One of the reasons was she did not have legal rights of stay in the UK, she was afraid to go and seek medical support for fear of deportation to Zimbabwe, her country of origin. However, in one night when her illness became worse, she knocked on her neighbour’s door for help. We will call this neighbour “John” and the client “Mary”.

After detailed discussions, it was revealed that Mary did not have a GP. So John arranged for and persuaded Mary to accept a referral to a GP. Early next morning, John could not go to work but drove Mary to this new found GP. Mary was referred to Hammersmith hospital immediately where she was diagnosed with AIDS related diseases including chronic TB. She was admitted to an isolation ward.

Not long after, her situation became worst and she died leaving a 4 year old girl. John managed to contact the family of Mary in Zimbabwe and flew both the corpse and the little child to Zimbabwe through his personal expenses.

Following this event, the above GP started to refer HIV positive patients (of African origin) on his register to John for general culturally sensitive community support until unfortunately, cases of this nature continued to increase, and the financial implications became unbearable for John. This prompted John to involve other community members such as African church leaders for support. Hence the need for the formation and development of this organisation with this nature of work.

From then on, contribution of funds was established as we normally do back in Africa to support such situations till the GP who dealt with Mary advised us to approach Brent Social Services for advice and to assist us with resources. Our first application to AIDS Support Grant was turned down by Brent Social Services in 1995, but this did not deter us from supporting our community as HIV/AIDS cases were on the increase job.

Eventually, we got a small grant whose condition was to organise two World AIDS Day Events in both Brent & Harrow. The first events were not well attended, the total number of people in attendance during both events were 16 and 9 for Brent & Harrow respectively but we used this experience to develop our future programmes till today. It was very disappointing but we had to carry on because of community demand.

In 1999, we received £24,000.00 main grant from Brent & Harrow Health Authority to pursue our peer education programme. Although we had the vision to deliver a well planned programme, the challenge was great due to the high stigma that was attached to HIV/AIDS in the African community. We considered it a big challenge because bearing from our first World AIDS Day experiences, we were not sure that we were going to meet our target number of 15 members from the African communities. It turned out to be true; the number of people who came to our first peer education training was just 6. We later revised our recruitment strategy and got 13 people to go through the programme by the end of the year.

Currently, the level of participation in our programmes is very high with long waiting list mainly with people from within the community. We consider this a success story to tell which could not have been possible without good revised strategy and planning.

Community Health Action Trust (CHAT) is now a global/African humanitarian non-profit organisation dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering in communities through health care training, relief and development programmes. It is a voluntary, non-political, non-sectarian organisation.