Islamic Relief highlights World Aids Day as an estimated 33 million people are afflicted across the globe
It is estimated that up to 34.2 million people live with HIV/AIDS globally with 2.5 million people newly affected in 2011. Islamic Relief believes that efforts will need to be stepped up to tackle the global pandemic which is destroying lives and communities. Children are not escaping the grip of AIDs, as many are infected through pregnancy. In 2011, 230,000 children under 15 died from AIDs.
HIV/AIDs continues to be a taboo subject – perhaps more so in faith communities – but open discussion is essential for ensuring that HIV/AIDs does not continue to spread at an alarming rate. Similarly, a number of misconceptions are associated with HIV/AIDs. It does not affect only certain parts of society, but affects all types of men, women and children throughout the world. In sub-saharan Africa, 60% of those infected are women.
HIV/AIDS is largely a problem of poverty and power imbalances. People who have limited control over their lives are particularly prone to get infected. Forced migration, seasonal labour movements, exploitation in general and positions of dependence, overcrowding, gender inequality, subordination and servitude all contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Knowledge of the disease certainly helps, however, unless people are in a position to be able to make and carry through informed choices, it will have little impact on the spread of the disease.
Many religious authorities in general and many Muslim authorities in particular have been relatively slow in their response to HIV and AIDS. Many national and local leaders continue to ignore or even stigmatise the disease and the people it affects. Often, a “Muslim response” to HIV and AIDS will depend on how widespread the disease is in a particular country or community. Islamic Relief believes that faith-groups need to join together to tackle the issue, as victims of HIV/AIDS are some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
IR South Africa Positive Living Program
The HIV prevalence rate in Southern Africa is one of the highest in the world, with South Africa having an 18.1% prevalence rate. There are 900 people dying every day in South Africa due to AIDS related illnesses. According to UNAIDS, 16.6 million children have lost a parent due to HIV, 1.9 million of whom are South African. At least 10% of the 1.9 million children orphaned by HIV and AIDS reside in child headed households. The children – particularly the female children – are victims of abuse.
IR South Africa runs a HIV and Gender Based Violence program called Positive Living. This program aims to provide prevention, care and support for people living with HIV and victims of Gender Based Violence. Many of the sponsored orphans and their family member have health issues – the main one being HIV infection. This programme encourages all the orphans and their families to go for HIV testing. Weekly support groups provide participants with moral support, education and encouragement to make a change in their lives that will improve their health status.
Through the support group meeting, participants are taught about good nutrition and are encouraged to start homestead food gardens to supplement their diet. A total of 210 homestead food gardens have been established. This was done in partnership with Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb and the Department of Agriculture. Awareness campaigns are conducted throughout the year according the health calendar in partnership with Department of Health.
Networking with local clinics ensures that all orphans get treatment when required. Orphans and their family members who are on ARV treatment get transport assistance to go to hospitals for their treatment. 64 beneficiaries on treatment were assisted with transport regularly to get treatment from various hospitals. Supplementary food is provided to those on ART and a total of 120 are given fortified porridge every month with their monthly food parcel.
Workshops and awareness campaigns are conducted in Islamic centres to equip Islamic scholars on HIV and how to address this issue. One-to-one counseling is offered to those infected or affected with HIV with a strong emphasis on education so that they are able to cope better.
IRSA also hosted a four day Training of Trainers in September 2012 for Islamic Relief staff across Africa. 25 participants came from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Mali, Chad, Zimbabwe and South Africa to attend this workshop in Johannesburg. Funded by UNFPA, the training aimed at equipping humanitarian workers on how to deal with issues relating to HIV and Gender Based Violence and sexual and reproductive health in Humanitarian settings. A manual funded by UNAIDS was tested at the workshop which is being finalized to be used in the field.
In Afghanistan in 2010-2012, Islamic Relief delivered a programme on HIV/Aids prevention and treatment and care for female drug users and female prisoners. Last year, Islamic Relief also carried out a community mobilisation project to fight HIV/Aids in Niamey and Kollo District in Niger.