The SACBC AIDS Office, opened in January 2000, helps to co-ordinate the Catholic Church response to HIV and AIDS in South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana. Underpinning the response are the principles of Catholic Social Teaching which recognises the dignity of every human being, the sanctity of life and solidarity.
Catholic Medical Mission Board (New York) in partnership with the Bristol Myers Squibb initiative in Southern Africa (including Namibia and Lesotho for some time), and Catholic Relief Services (the service arm of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) provided the initial funding to allow the Catholic Church to scale up its response to AIDS in the most devastated region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Support also came from European Catholic doors agencies as well as from other donors. The Church has supported programmes across a continuum, awareness raising, education and prevention, home based care, and care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Throughout the network of service programmes there has been an emphasis on training and capacity building at local level, on retreats and horizontal learning opportunities, on developing networking opportunites and sharing best practice models. The SACBC AIDS Office encourages collaboration at all levels with various inter-faith groups, NGOs, the private sector and government departments to facilitate the provision of services to those in need.
In 2004 Catholic Relief Services was awarded a PEPFAR grant to support treatment in nine countries and the SACBC AIDS Office became the major partner and implementing arm of the programme in South Africa. Treatment sites (plus satellite centres) were established, clinical and support personnel were trained, and patients were initiated on treatment. In 2009 the PEPFAR grant was “transitioned” from Catholic Relief Services to the SACBC AIDS Office. In the second phase of “transitioning” some patients are being transferred to Department of Health clinics, while others are receiving antiretroviral medication provided by the Department of Health at Church sites. By the end of 2011, the SACBC/CRS programme had initiated more than 40 000 patients on ARV treatment.
Over much of the same period PEPFAR support has also enabled the SACBC AIDS Office to support about forty sites (plus satellite centres) providing a number of services to orphaned and vulnerable children. Over the life of the programme more than forty thousand children have received educational, health care, paralegal, shelter, nutritional and other support.
Prevention education, and training for youth, children and adults is provided at local project level and includes programmes such as “Education for Life.” Prevention education is also a strong component of the treatment programme.
A tuberculosis screening programme in various places helps identify patients in need of referrals for further intervention, either at Church sites or in neighbouring Department of Health Clinics. Home based care services and the follow up referrals to treatment sites continue in a number of areas. Over many years home based care services have been the backbone of the Church’s response to AIDS. Now that treatment is more widely available in the country, it is possible to refer patients from home based care services elsewhere for treatment.
Funding from Homeplan and other donors is supporting the construction of simple two-roomed houses in rural areas for orphaned children and their caregivers, in South Africa and Swaziland.
Both Swaziland and Botswana have AIDS programmes directly supported by PEPFAR and other donors.
Church strengths include its communication network, even to remote areas; the faith commitment and response of thousands of ordinary people to the needs around them; people’s enthusiasm in embracing opportunities to serve those in need; working in new partnerships to do the work and embracing new forms of health care and education.
SACBC AIDS Office
399 Paul Kruger Street
PO Box 941
Tel: 012 323 6458
Fax: 012 326 4309
Director: Sr Alison Munro