The SACBC AIDS Office welcomes Minister Motsoaledi’s announcement on ARV treatment
The SACBC AIDS Office welcomes Minister Motsoaledi’s announcement that from September ARV treatment will be available from September to all people who test HIV rather than on specific CD4 counts. However we caution that defaulting on treatment is already a problem, and that people on treatment need to be counselled about the taking treatment as prescribed, and not giving up when it appears they don’t need it.
Sr Alison Munro, OP
SACBC AIDS Office
SACBC AIDS Office, May 2016
SACBC AIDS Office
- Supports the Church’s response to AIDS through care and support programmes in the different dioceses.
HIV and AIDS in the SACBC Countries
- South Africa has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, Swaziland the highest rate of infection.
- Most HIV in the world is experienced in sub-Saharan Africa.
International AIDS Conference
- The 16th International AIDS Conference bringing together researchers, scientists, activists and people with AIDS will take place in Durban in July. 20 000 people are expected to attend from all over the world.
- There will be papers presented on new drugs, vaccine trials, medical and social interventions and programmes.
- What will be stressed is the goal of UNAIDS and the Department of Health: 90/90/90. I.e. 90% of people tested and knowing their status, 9o% of them going on treatment and 90% remaining adherent to treatment.
HIV, AIDS, TB
- HIV is a virus which causes AIDS for which there is no cure. It is most often transmitted sexually.
- South Africa has the largest anti- retroviral treatment in the world. This is set to become even bigger in the latter part of this year when anti-retroviral drugs are provided to people who are HIV positive rather than only to those in a more advanced stage of disease. This means people will go on treatment earlier than is currently happening.
- The effect of the anti-retroviral drugs inhibits the transmission of HIV, and serves as a form of prevention. This is expected to slow down the transmission rate of HIV which is still very high in South Africa.
- TB is often found in people with HIV; it is transmitted very easily when people live in over-crowded conditions.
- We are experiencing MDR and XDR TB, drug resistant forms of TB caused by people defaulting on treatment, and also then easily transmitted to others.
- There are over 6 million people in South Africa with HIV. In Swaziland a quarter of the population is infected.
The obstacles in the way
- Stigma and discrimination is highly problematic. Labelling people, judging them, isolating them rather than including them in the faith community as people loved by God no matter the past.
- Some sigma is self stigma, where people label themselves and find it hard to forgive themselves and move on.
- Stigma and discrimination is an obstacle to HIV prevention and the support of people who are on treatment. What it does also mean is that people continue to put themselves at risk of infection.
- Currently the majority of programmes work with orphans and vulnerable children, aiming to keep children free from HIV, and on treatment when they have HIV infection.
- Services around education aim to keep children in school, and to support them in after school programmes; health services include HIV counselling and testing, TB screening, and interventions to address childhood illnesses; other interventions address safety (working with child abuse), economic strengthening (income-generating activities), accessing birth certificates and social grants.
- Parents and guardians of children entering puberty, and care workers are trained in a family matters programme aimed at helping them to address HIV prevention issues.
Treatment Adherence Programmes
- The Catholic Church no longer has anti-retroviral treatment programmes, though it did run an ARV programme for eleven years.
- Church programmes are now committed to treatment adherence support; people are encouraged to participate in support groups and clubs so that understand the importance of not defaulting on treatment.
- The Church’s own treatment programmes placed a huge emphasis on treatment adherence, and in the public sector it is increasingly recognised that ARV drugs on their own will not bring the rates of infection down if people are not convinced of the need to take drugs daily.
Orphan housing programme
- The AIDS Office has received funding to construct simple two-roomed houses for orphan-headed household and for grandmother-headed households. Since 2010 nearly 500 houses have been constructed in different places in South Africa and Swaziland.
- Those doing the work of caring for the sick and for children value the pastoral support they receive from their parishes, their priests and other pastoral workers. It is important that this is ongoing and regular.
- Support is often provided through retreats for caregivers and guardians.
- It can be difficult for care workers when their work is not valued in their church communities.
Who works in the Church’s Programmes
- The SACBC AIDS Office supports the work of the dioceses and projects; it has received donor funding to support programmes particularly in high prevalence areas.
- Projects are run in dioceses, parishes, religious congregations and in local communities. Ideally the work of the people on the ground taking care of the sick or of orphans and vulnerable children is owned and supported by the church community. In such cases projects often run from parish halls with clergy and parishioners taking an active role.
- Some projects, sadly, do not have the support of the parishes, and this can hamper the response.
Who do the Church projects work with
- Some of the best Church AIDS programmes have strong working relationships with local clinics and hospitals, and with schools; this can allow for HIV testing and the provision of drugs that the Church projects can’t otherwise easily access
- In other cases the relationship is not so easy.
- Other partners include other churches and Non-Government Organisations operating in the area.
- The funding the AIDS office accesses is for the projects in the dioceses, sometimes providing the only financial support to particular projects.
- Currently the funding is earmarked for AIDS responses in districts identified by the Department of Health. This means that not all dioceses can be supported with funding from the AIDS Office.
What you can do
- Participate in AIDS information and counselling training.
- Undergo HIV counselling and testing better to understand what it entails, and to help fight stigma and discrimination.
- Link up with the AIDS Projects in your diocese, parish, and get involved as far as possible: On the boards, in a pastoral care team, as spiritual director, as counsellor. Become a volunteer somewhere.
- Don’t be an obstacle to the work being done even if you choose not to get involved.
- Check the website for information of the SACBC programme and updates: aidsoffice.sacbc.org.za
- Read our book and other publications on AIDS and the Church.