VOA News Examines Hospice for People Living with HIV/AIDS in ZambiaVOA News on Tuesday examined Mother of Mercy hospice in Zambia's Chilanga Township, which provides hospice care for terminally ill people living with HIV/AIDS. The Roman Catholic-affiliated hospice was established in 1989 through donations from individuals and Christian organizations. It has 120 beds and currently provides services to 350 low-income, terminally ill HIV-positive people, many of whom have been shunned by their families and communities. "Rather than die in the corner of the hut, in really atrocious circumstances, it was better to bring them into the hospice where they could have the care that they needed (so) that they could die with dignity," Michael Bush, a senior medical adviser at the hospice, said.
According to VOA News, Mother of Mercy is one of several HIV/AIDS hospices in Zambia. About one million of the approximately 12 million people in the country are living with HIV, and health advocates estimate that almost 500 Zambians die of AIDS-related illnesses daily. The extended family system in Zambia has been significantly weakened by HIV/AIDS, and the government has a difficult time attending to terminally ill people living with the virus because of the country's widespread poverty, unemployment and high number of AIDS orphans.
International donors and the Zambian government provide no-cost antiretroviral drugs to more than 150,000 people living with HIV, and the country's HIV prevalence has decreased from 16% to about 14%, VOA News reports. Clementine Mumba, chair of the Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign, said that she believes Zambia's hospices "are doing a very commendable job." However, she added that "they are catering to a small number of people in the nation (because they are) depending on well-wishers for the resources they use at their institutions." Mumba said that the government should consider supporting hospices to encourage donors and other groups to establish more. Zambian officials have said that they can only provide services based on the financial and material resources available.
Although Mother of Mercy is officially a Catholic institution, services are offered to HIV-positive people of all religions. Bush said that psychological needs also are addressed at the hospice because "[p]eople who are close to death often have a lot of psychological and spiritual problems as well." In addition, the hospice plans to open a school for Zambian AIDS orphans, most of whom do not have extended families (Kabange Chongo, VOA News, 4/14). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.