Kamanjab-Most projects initiated for the Outjo HIV support group have come to a screeching halt due to the project funds drying up.
Group leader Maranatha #Gausas (not real name) told New Era they do not have any financial support and their projects have been at a standstill for more than five years.
“We do not get any support. There is no material for our sewing project and the ointment business could not sustain itself anymore so we closed it too,” #Gausas revealed.
For years the Outjo HIV support group used to get assistance from the Regional Aids Coordinating Committee but that support is no longer forthcoming, said #Gausas.
Two out of five sewing machines used for the sewing project have broken down.
To make matters worse material for the sewing project was stolen after the old municipal building that hosted the group was broken into. Although the women were trained in sewing for a month most of them used to struggle to make clothes.
Currently the Outjo HIV support group only has 10 members, one of whom is a man who operates a garden 10 kilometres outside the town on the way to Kamanjab. Members plant vegetables according to the season.
For years the group spoke about challenges with transport to the garden, a problem which persists until today and #Gausas called on anyone who can assist the group to do so to keep their project afloat.
“We used to give our members produce from the garden to eat as one needs to be healthy,” #Gausas said.
#Gausas said that if funding is available once again for the sewing and ointment-making project she would motivate her group to resume work.
The Outjo HIV support group is still one of the most active groups in the Kunene Region as the groups at Khorixas and other towns in the region are hardly visible.
Johannes Antsino, the Outjo constituency councillor, told New Era the Kunene Region authority supports the
community, providing them with transport to and from the garden. “We pay a monthly allowance to the coordinator of the group. We provide fencing materials and we donated five sewing machines,” Antsino said.
The Outjo HIV support group was established in 2006 to encourage members and inform the public that its members can work, eat and drink with the community without infecting them with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
“The primary objective is to produce food and supplement their meals at home for them not to take medicines on an empty stomach and for the medicine to be more effective,” said Antsino.
Anyone regardless of being HIV negative or positive can join the group.
Back then OK Foods at Outjo and Nexus were among the sponsors but they pulled out due to the adverse economic situation in the country, Antsino said.
“HIV and AIDS is just a disease just like any other disease – they should be positive and continue to contribute positively to the development of our country. They should help to teach, inform and sensitise other citizens about the animal called AIDS. They are part of our families, they are our brothers, our sisters, our in-laws and our friends, and we will always support them,” Antsino assured those infected with HIV.
Those who are on anti-retroviral medication were advised to take their tablets on time and not to be misled by people telling them to stop taking their medicine.
About 2,900 people are infected with HIV in the constituency of Outjo.