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SOUTH AFRICA: AIDS village causes "more harm than good" - NAPWA

The opening of South Africa's first "AIDS village" on Thursday was not what people living with HIV/AIDS needed, and would cause "more harm than good", the spokesperson for the National Association of PWAs (NAPWA) told PlusNews on Friday.

Thanduxolo Doro said the controversial village, run by interdenominational Sparrow Ministries, was an "insensitive" initiative that had not taken into account the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. "Their intentions were good, but there should have been broad consultation," he added.

Doro admitted that there were instances where people had been rejected by their communities because of their HIV status, "but they are rejected not out of hate, but out of ignorance". The solution was to address this rejection and not foster it, he said. "In our African tradition, you just can't uproot a person from their family, its just not done," he said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the association noted that Sparrow Ministries had announced last year that the objectives of the village were to "help prevent AIDS from spreading, and keep the virus from being out on the streets. They should come here and be cared for, loved and given hope."

This was an insult to families and people living with HIV/AIDS, NAPWA said. "Lack of resources by our families should not be construed to mean lack of love," the statement said.

According to Doro, the village was "feeding the stigma associated with AIDS". "They should have included people with other terminal diseases and not just compartmentalised AIDS," he added.

"It's so easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticise, but we need to look at what the alternatives are," said Lynette Nel, co-director of Sparrow Ministries.

Home-based care initiatives were sometimes inadequate and most people had been turned away from government hospitals. "And you can't hide them away in TB (tuberculosis) and government hospitals forever," Nel told PlusNews

The village is open to people who are destitute and who have a CD4 count of below 200. It provides a training centre to help people develop their skills, so that they can eventually become self-supporting. Nel insisted that the village was not like a "leper colony", as several people living near the village had welcomed the initiative.

"We had a neighbour who brought us biscuits on the day we opened and offered to show patients how to bake," she said.

Responding to concerns that the village would become a "zoo", Nel warned that there were careful screening measures to prevent this. A self-supporting centre with a craft centre and food stall would be open for business in the village, but the villagers could choose whether to work there or not, she added.

"People just have the wrong idea about this," she said.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

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

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