HIV-Positive People in Africa Increasingly Seek Support From Groups Founded by Others Living With HIV, Long Island Newsday Reports
HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa increasingly are turning to groups founded and run by others living with the virus, rather than the formal health sector and nongovernmental organizations, for support, Long Island Newsday reports. In 2001, there was one support group in Ghana, compared with almost 200 currently. In addition, there are more than 300 such groups in Kenya and more than 400 in Uganda, according to the Ghanaian advocacy group Network of African People living with HIV/AIDS, or NAP+, which has national affiliations in 50 African countries. Francis Collins, NAP+ program manager, said that for people living with HIV, the appeal of such groups lies in the fact that members have "common problems, a common vision and a common mission." They also are more at ease sharing their issues with other HIV-positive people, Collins said. The groups, which normally have several dozen members, meet a few times monthly to promote "positive living," provide a sense of community, offer counseling and operate income-generating activities, Collins said. In addition, the groups function as an "organizing hub for financial aid, food donations and government-subsidized medicine," according to Newsday. The groups also invite health professionals to speak and send group leaders to attend workshops so they can gather accurate information for members. However, even successful support groups often do not have professional staff for executive management and fundraising because well-educated and wealthier people with HIV typically receive treatment at private clinics and often keep their HIV status private, Bernice Heloo, executive director of the Ghana-based NGO Pro-Link, said. Heloo called on NGOs to assist support groups in areas where they could benefit significantly from professional insight. "I see it as a division of labor," Heloo said, adding that governments can handle logistics, provide medicine and medical facilities, and HIV-positive people can form and operate support groups, which NGOs can help to flourish (Moresco, Long Island Newsday, 4/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.