Last year, the Network of African People living with HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa (NAP+SAR) was formed and is based in South Africa. Its mandate was to add complimentary values to the efforts of country networks of people living with HIV and AIDS in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
NAP+SAR members thus far are Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
During a period of five days (25th to 29th August) NAP+SAR brought together key members from the country networks of people living with HIV and AIDS from the SADC region for an Annual General Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Also in attendance were representatives of a new network of SADC journalists who live with HIV and AIDS.
And while the conference charted the progress of internal operations of the one-year-old organisation, the following issues were raised when the country networks reported the challenges and triumphs.
The country networks had in common projects that address food security.
Food security has earned more meaning in the wake of global food hikes. The adherence of antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs is challenged by poor food security. The Zimbabwe National Network of PLWHA (ZNNP+) reported that the recent upheaval caused by the elections and eminent food shortages had caused many PLWHA to cease their treatment because of the disruption of their daily lives, thus, as common with lack of adhering to treatment, a strain of the virus that will be more challenging to treat could possibly be brewing.
The networks reported programmes that food security programmes that work at grassroots level, ranging from vegetable gardens to Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA+)’s pyramid-like scheme that provides free-range chickens to affected individuals.
Another regional challenge that people living with HIV are faced with is a language barrier. It is uncommon for people living with HIV in Portuguese speaking countries to source medical assistance in Brazil rather that in nearby South Africa where that treatment is also available due to the communication break down of not speaking the same language.
The national network also raised a concern in the regional trend of the criminalising of HIV transmission. While some spoke of its gender implications, the nature of such crime is ‘assumed’ but result in harsh penalties.