AIDS Caregivers Battle Red Tape

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By Wezi Tjaronda

WINDHOEK

A community-based organisation says a hostile environment against new entrants in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic will prevent community participation.

The Solidarity Community Care Organisation (SCCO), which was founded in March 2006, says experience indicates that the existing environment is hostile, especially to the establishment and operations of Aids community-based organisations.

SCCO Chairman Contancio Mwandingi said in a report of his organisation’s activities recently that they have so far failed to get recognition from the Ohangwena and Oshana regional councils and obtain reference letters that are sometimes needed by donors because of cumbersome registration procedures.

“Ohangwena and Oshana regions’ Regional Aids Coordinating Committees (RACOCs) subject new community-based organisations to discouraging and frustrating procedures in order to obtain official recognition from them,” he said.

As a result, SCCO has not yet received official recognition from them despite numerous communications requesting recognition. The organisation is registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Services as a welfare organisation.

The organisation has had to rely on the support of community and church leaders to engage communities in the two regions.

This situation, said Mwandingi, is not good for Ohangwena on the one hand, which still has an average HIV infection rate of over 20 percent and less HIV/AIDS community care and support services coverage.

The Oshana Region on the other hand, said Mwandingi, needs to continue encouraging community participation in the fight against HIV and Aids, because although it has more community-based organisations than Ohangwena, they have not yet succeeded in lowering its HIV prevalence rate.

Although this is the case in the two regions, “The demand for care and support services in the rural communities is still very high as people need AIDS information, home-based care and counselling.

“Therefore, CBOs targeting rural communities, including SCCO, need to be supported to take these services to people who need them,” he said.

SCCO chose to work in Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana and Khomas regions because of their high HIV prevalence rates.

However, the SCCO chairman said it is easy to get official recognition in Oshikoto and Khomas regions, which indicates the importance that these regions’ RACOCs attach to community participation in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The Aids coordinators of the two regions could not be reached for comment.

In September 2007, SCCO received a grant amounting to N$64,320 (US$8,246.15) from the Small Grants Fund (administered by UNAIDS in Namibia) for the training and provision of home based care (HBC) and AIDS counselling, including the buying of HBC kits refill materials.

After receiving N$48,320 (US$6,194.87), as a first disbursement of the grant in September 2007, SCCO trained 91 community caregivers in home based care (HBC) and AIDS counselling from October 2007 to January 2008.

The organisation will now focus on the actual provision of home based care and AIDS counselling and information in the next quarter.

The King Kauluma, Omutsegonime and Etope communities indicate that SCCO community caregivers are already providing care and support services to more than 630 clients.

This figure is expected to increase to more than 1 000 clients a month, when SCCO community caregivers in Oshana and Khomas regions, as well as those at Onekuta community in Ohangwena Region, report at the end of February 2008.

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