“AIDSRelief” – a job well done, and with thanks to PEPFAR
Sr Alison Munro of the SACBC AIDS Office and Dr Douglas Ross of St Mary’s Hospital, Mariannhill,
participated in a seminar in Lusaka, Zambia, with representatives from Church treatment
programmes in Africa, all formerly part of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) AIDSRelief programme
and subsequently themselves prime recipients of PEPFAR funding.
The SACBC AIDS Office itself has recently been granted an extension to its PEPFAR grant enabling it
to continue for one more year at six treatment sites and 25 orphan and vulnerable children sites in
different dioceses of South Africa.
While the overall AIDSRelief grant itself closed on 28th February 2013, the work itself continues
through local partners within the ministry of health of the respective countries and in collaboration
with different partners.
Michelle Broemmelsiek of CRS in Baltimore, and one time head of AIDSRelief for CRS outlined the
AIDSRelief story, noting the extraordinary successes of a treatment programme in under-resourced
settings in ten countries where many said “it can’t be done.” The programme noted a high patient
retention number, a low loss to follow up, low mortality, and very good viral suppression. Among
the lessons learned: that you can’t “stove-pipe” AIDS, that advocacy must be engaged in, that there
is a declining interest around foreign aid. Over 700 000 patients were initiated on treatment under
the AIDSRelief programme.
Kenya (through the Protestant network CHAK, and the Kenya Episcopal Conference) Zambia
(through CHAZ and CHRESO), Uganda, Tanzania (through Christian Social Services Commission),
and South Africa (through the SACBC AIDS Office and St Mary’s) all continued the work begun
under AIDSRelief, sometimes in different regions with new sites and with new partners, sometimes
struggling with management structures, staff turnover, the strand-alone nature of the programme,
collaboration, accessing funding, and not initially understanding the demands of “transition” to a
local partner and to local ministries of health.
Among the issues for follow-up advocacy work by CRS in collaboration with its partners: the issue of
maternal and child health, work with men’s health issues and accessing new funding for the Church’s