HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa

How Oxfam is tackling the pandemic

Mining companies, bars, churches and universities – Oxfam Australia and Oxfams worldwide are working with some strange bedfellows to tackle HIV and AIDS across Southern Africa. But the diverse groups are part of a strategy to both prevent HIV infection and care for patients and their families affected by AIDS.

Oxfam is working with many partners across Southern Africa in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Levels of HIV infection in Southern African countries are among the highest in the world. In Mozambique nearly one in ten people is HIV-positive, in a population of just under 20 million. In South Africa the rate is nearly one in eight people, in a country of 47.4 million. Zimbabwe is even more affected by the disease, where nearly one in six people is living with HIV in a population of 12 million.

An overview of the issues

Different countries have their own problems, sometimes compounded by tense and volatile political climates.  But generally the underlying issues are common when examining the incidence and spread of HIV in Southern Africa:

  • Stigma
  • Discrimination
  • Access to confidential testing and counselling
  • Access to health services and treatment
  • Unemployment
  • Food insecurity
  • Access to condoms and femidoms (female condoms)
  • The ability to negotiate safer sex

These are just some of the factors contributing towards the HIV pandemic in Southern Africa.

HIV infection, and the subsequent development of AIDS, does not affect just one person. It can dismantle entire families and communities. Across Africa, HIV and AIDS often leaves families without a main breadwinner, and children and the elderly without parents, carers or an income.  And although some countries are now offering limited antiretroviral therapy (ART), the majority of people living with HIV in Southern Africa only have access to basic medical care.

Combining prevention, care, support and treatment

It is widely recognised that an effective HIV program must provide a continuum of care – integrating prevention, treatment, care and support.

Oxfam Australia assists partner organisations to develop and strengthen skills, resources and knowledge in order to provide an integrated approach to HIV and AIDS. In doing so ,partners have also extended and strengthened their work to include broader issues such as TB infection, food security, livelihoods, orphans and vulnerable children as well as strengthening links with government services and addressing issues around access to ART.

Home-based care

Home-based care is a vital part of care for people living with HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa.  Home based carers not only provide practical lifesaving healthcare and support but also raise awareness in communities about HIV and AIDS to breakdown ignorance and stigma.

Typically, home based carers help people access vital antiretroviral medication and provide basic healthcare and wound management. They also dispense medicines, accompany patients to hospital and HIV testing centres and deliver food to ensure clients get the nutrients they need. And most importantly they provide social contact, companionship and psychological and spiritual support, as well as helping with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, fetching water and caring for the children.

Watch two videos in which South African community care workers discuss the ins and outs of home-based care.

Improved health delivery

Oxfam Australia supports partners such as the KwaMakhutha Community Resource Centre (KMCRC) in advocating for improved access to health services and treatment. We recognise the vital role governments and government services must play in the treatment and care of people living with HIV and AIDS.  KMCRC, through educating and supporting the local community, engaging with local service providers and advocating for improved health delivery, has achieved:

  • The opening of a 24-hour health clinic to replace a once a week mobile clinic
  • The opening of a new ARV treatment site closer to the community

Food security & nutrition

Nutrition, and therefore food security, is vital for individuals, households and communities affected by HIV. Lack of food security, poor nutrition and malnutrition can accelerate the progression to AIDS-related illnesses. HIV infection itself undermines food security and nutrition by reducing the ability to work and jeopardises household livelihoods.

Oxfam Australia works with partners to ensure that food and nutrition is a key aspect of their work in relation to HIV and AIDS.  One of our local South African partners, Fancy Stitch, is helping poor rural women in KwaZulu-Natal province to develop sustainable incomes and greater resilience to HIV and AIDS through an innovative craft-based program.

The area in which Fancy Stitch operates borders with Mozambique and is considered one of the poorest areas of South Africa.  HIV, TB and Malaria rates are high in the area, and migration of men for work to the surrounding countries (Swaziland and Mozambique) and to industrial areas of South Africa, increase HIV rates.  The huge financial burden of HIV and AIDS, including the costs associated with: treatment, funerals, and care for children orphaned by AIDS, further drains household and community resources – entrenching poverty.

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