By Petronella Sibeene
Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday came under fire when HIV/AIDS activists accused them of squandering money from donors meant for the fight against the disease on non-core areas that do not directly benefit sufferers.
A conference on Namibian Women Leaders on HIV/AIDS yesterday heard that many organisations purporting to represent sufferers have mushroomed all over the country, but their key mandate seems to be to cash in on generous funding from foreign donors.
Melao Phillipus and Nelao Martin both HIV/AIDS activists yesterday told participants of the first-ever national female leaders’ conference that few organisations have stuck to their operational mandate of fighting HIV/AIDS.
“We have many NGOs who claim they are doing HIV activities and helping support HIV-positive people but the truth is a lot of HIV-positive people are not benefiting from their (NGOs) services. We only benefit from some and that is maybe only 10 percent,” said Phillipus, who has been living with HIV for the past 11 years.
According to Namibia Network of Aids Service Organisations (NANASO), at present there are 336 organisations active in the area of HIV/AIDS. Of these, 167 are NGOs, 143 being community-based organisations (CBOs) and 44 faith-based organisations (FBOs). Out of the 167 NGOs, 81 work in rural communities of the country.
Activists further alleged that there is a mushrooming of NGOs purporting to have the interests of HIV sufferers at heart but who seem more interested in money making.
“There are so many HIV organisations which are even more than the number of people who are infected. A lot of programmes, thousands of pamphlets and T-shirts printed, and the question remains, are all these effective?” said Martin.
Commenting on the scathing attack on NGOs, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, said if there are such organisations in Namibia, activists should report to the ministry in order for the Government to take appropriate action.
At the same event another HIV activist of 22 years from Uganda Noerine Kaleeba urged stakeholders in the HIV/AIDS fight to work towards breaking the wall of silence and stigma. Kaleeba said the two are a cocktail that has for years hindered progress in stopping the spread of the disease.
“Silence at family, community and national levels on the pandemic is one of the bottlenecks in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It needs to be broken,” she emphasised.
Stigmatisation today is not only directed at those infected with the virus but also those fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
She added that there is a tendency to demoralise activism, something that Namibia should similarly address.
HIV/AIDS in Namibia, like in many other countries, carries a woman’s face and that has contributed to stigma and discrimination, said Martin.
She associated the stigma to a lack of continuous educational programmes.
Kaleeba said, “Namibia has the key to breaking the silence but that key needs to be supported.”
She urged conference attendants to come up with doable actions, adding that there are too many declarations signed on the continent with little implementation taking place.
HIV/AIDS remains alarming in Namibia, with 19.9 percent standing as the prevalence rate in 2006.