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International News

Swaziland: AIDS Programs Get By Barely With Volunteers

June 1, 2004

In Swaziland, a country with high unemployment and little money for social programs, volunteers responding to the AIDS epidemic find the demands of filling the gaps increasingly burdensome. According to UNAIDS, Swaziland has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate -- approaching 40 percent. "We need to find ways to give some small stipend to volunteers. So many of the AIDS programs are dependent on volunteers, such as home-based care," said Derek Von Wissell, director of the National Emergency Response Committee on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), a group set up to coordinate Swaziland's response to the AIDS pandemic.

NERCHA believes that community initiatives that address the epidemic are more effective than projects run by the government or foreign donors. However, their programs rely on a volunteer base that is being stretched thin.

There are also concerns that many volunteers do not have the skills needed to address some problems related to HIV/AIDS, especially in the area of home-based care. "Antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients must be administered exactly, or they will lose their effectiveness. Do volunteers know how to protect themselves against infection from spilt blood? Will they stick to a job when it becomes disagreeable the way a professional will?" asked nurse Agnes Kunene.

In response, organizations like Swazis for Positive Living are trying to come up with creative solutions to remunerate volunteers. The group, which includes 350 women and 50 men, cultivate fields in a venture similar to cooperatives. "We sell all the vegetables we harvest, and half the proceeds go to the orphans -- 25 percent of the profits we put back into our business. The final quarter we split among the members," said Sempiwe Hlope, one of the group's founders.

Back to other news for June 1, 2004

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
05.30.04; James Hall

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS Treatment in Swaziland