IRIN News on Tuesday examined the challenges facing Swaziland's home-based caregivers, who are "too few and too poorly paid to cope with the growing numbers of bedridden AIDS patients" in the country. Caregivers' duties include feeding, washing, dressing and reading to people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as imparting health advice and offering companionship. According to the country's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, there is one caregiver per 20 rural households. This ratio is "stretching the capacity of that one person too far," Thembesile Dlamini, a program officer with UNAIDS in Swaziland said. Although some caregivers are volunteers, the health ministry spends about $1 million annually to provide salaries for 5,500 nonvolunteer caregivers. However, the government stipend of $17 per month is not enough for the caregivers to live on. In addition, volunteers often feel resentment toward the paid caregivers, according to IRIN News. Many caregivers also face the challenges of working in rural areas, where it is necessary to travel long distances on dusty or muddy roads, according Faith Sakati, a caregiver in rural Mhlambanyatsi. Traditional views in Swaziland of gender roles often prevent men from becoming caregivers, Dlamini said. In the country's Hhohho region, 33 of the 1,300 caregivers are men, and in the eastern Lubombo region, 19 of the 980 caregivers are men, IRIN News reports. According to Dlamini, for the country to recruit the number of needed caregivers, attitudes toward job type and gender must change (IRIN News, 5/9).
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