Grassroots Volunteers in Southern Africa Provide Support for People Living With, Affected by HIV/AIDS
Grassroots volunteers in southern Africa increasingly are acting as support networks for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The United Nations estimates that southern Africa accounts for 60% of the world's HIV-positive population, which has had a significant social impact on the region. Governments, aid groups and welfare systems often are unable to assist everyone who needs help, according to the Monitor. The grassroots helpers mostly are women living in areas with high HIV prevalence, and many of them have few resources. The volunteers take care of ill neighbors, provide food for children with sick parents and collect clothes for orphans in an effort to make "Africa's age of AIDS more bearable," the Monitor reports. "It's a regional phenomenon," Richard Delate, UNAIDS spokesperson for southern Africa, said, adding, "Especially as the burden of the epidemic deepens, the burden of care is shifting to the community." Winnie Mabaso, a retired nurse, is a community volunteer in the township of Finetown outside Johannesburg, South Africa. When she moved to the township in 1999, she began serving soup and bread to neighborhood children whose parents were bedridden because of AIDS-related illnesses. She also allowed young children in the neighborhood to spend their days at her home and enlisted her neighbors to help her. Mabaso -- who earlier this year opened a nursery school in her backyard -- now works with 50 neighborhood volunteers who feed and counsel children and check on them at home. In addition, the volunteers three times daily serve food to the children, which is largely funded by donations. According to Mabaso, about 1,700 orphans have received food from her over the years, and 20 children live with her full time. In Orange Farm township, also outside Johannesburg, Precious Makodi, who is in her 20s, started a home health care group with other women in her neighborhood for her neighbors, including those who are HIV-positive. "They are our neighbors. They are HIV-positive; they have tuberculosis. Nobody else is caring for them," Makodi said (Hanes, Christian Science Monitor, 7/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.