SAN Talk About HIV/AIDS

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Access to information on HIV/AIDS is crucial for any community in the country in order to be able to know about the dangers associated with this ever-growing pandemic. However, due to weak infrastructure in some parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, there are still many people who still do not have access to such information. It is against this background that development experts from the German Development Service (DED) organised a two-day workshop on HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence during the first week of this month at Mangetti Dune in the Tsumkwe district for the resident San community. More than 20 participants took part in the workshop conducted by two facilitators from the Child Protection Unit and the Tsumeb Women and Children’s Centre. Sixteen years after independence, the San are still the most marginalised group in the country and a workshop of this nature will go a long way to benefit them. “We can assure that our work has a positive and sustainable impact. It is especially important in districts like Tsumkwe where the infrastructure is weak and many do not have access to the necessary information,” said DED development worker Sabine Greschek in a recent press statement. She said it is important to give information on HIV/AIDS and domestic violence to communities on the grassroots level where it is needed the most. The workshop is said to have concentrated on legal issues, like for example the rights of domestic violence victims, access to post-exposure prophylaxis after rape, among other issues. Due to the fact that the San people were a closely-knit community in the past, the infection rate of HIV/AIDS was not so much of a problem, but with modernisation and post-independence social integration the group has become more prone to infection. A series of workshops organised and funded by DED in the Western Tsumkwe district has provided this group access to information on growing social concerns like HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Besides assisting communities on these kinds of issues, DED also focuses on forest preservation and forest management issues in rural communities. The goal is to empower communities to protect and preserve their indigenous forests as a basis of living and as an income-generating initiative that ultimately would boost local livelihoods at the end of the day. Together with the Directorate of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, DED’s development expert Dr Karsten Feuerriegel regularly assists the communities of M’kata and M’Para in the Western Tsumkwe area. The main objective here is for communities to establish their own community forests in the Caprivi, Kavango and West Otjozondjupa regions. With an area of about 86 765 hectares M’kata is the biggest community forest in Namibia. The same organisation also works closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Services with ten experts to deal directly with the prevention of HIV/AIDS, among them six physicians at hospitals in Outapi, Eehnana and Katima Mulilo.