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UNAIDS praises community efforts to combat HIV/AIDS
Sunday 3 April 2005
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SWAZILAND: UNAIDS praises community efforts to combat HIV/AIDS


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


MBABANE, 21 March (PLUSNEWS) - Swaziland's efforts to tackle AIDS at the community level have won the praise of the executive director of the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Peter Piot.

"I have seen how communities are standing up to fight against the scourge, especially the women, who are initiating projects to help those infected and affected, including orphans and vulnerable children," Piot said at the weekend.

During his visit to Swaziland, which has the world's highest HIV infection rate, Piot witnessed rural and township initiatives aimed at helping people living with the virus, and the growing population of children orphaned by the disease.

At Mankayane, 25 km southeast of the capital, Mbabane, and centre of the country's canning industry, Piot was introduced by Health Minister Sipho Shongwe to the HIV-positive women at a farm whose produce supported orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in the area.

"Because there are many migrant workers here at the canning plant, HIV transmission is high - yet the year-round community won't support the OVC, especially the children who are simply poor, because they see them as outsiders," explained Sphiwe Hlope, director of the NGO, Swazis for Positive Living.

Piot inspected the group's newly harvested maize and vegetables, and fields of cotton, commenting that this was the type of self-help project that impressed the donor community. "These are examples to other parts of the country, as well as other countries," he said.

Shongwe noted that the women who ran the farm worked with traditional leaders and community members to help fight the stigma HIV-positive people in Swaziland were facing, despite the fact that four out of 10 adults were infected with the virus.

"Stigmatisation and discrimination begins with the people infected with HIV, some of whom self-discriminate," said Shongwe.

"To come forth with the truth is a great emotional relief, a psychological boost, and it immediately lessens stress, which can make any health condition worse," noted Hlope.

Principal Secretary of Health Dr John Kunene told PlusNews that despite the country's bleak AIDS picture, positive programmes were overcoming despair and inertia.

"The tour met our objectives of familiarising the team with the progress made in the implementation of programmes, and it raised awareness of the efforts of people living with HIV/AIDS and civil society as well, not just government and donor agencies, in the fight against HIV/AIDS. All these programmes will be scaled up," said Kunene.

[ENDS]


 
Recent SWAZILAND Reports
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Elderly bear burden of orphan crisis,  17/Mar/05
Humanitarian crisis worsening, warn relief agencies,  28/Feb/05
Targeting HIV/AIDS in the workplace,  17/Feb/05
HIV-positive women's group creates agricultural cooperative,  14/Feb/05
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