AIDS CONFERENCE - 19 November 2005 – Nhlangano (Swaziland)

Opening: Mr Neville Curle opened the meeting with a re-interpretation of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:8-17) in which the tax collector became an AIDS sufferer and through which our inclination to stigmatise those with HIV/AIDS were exposed.


The first speaker was Dr Arnau van Wyngaard who spoke about the topic: "Why are we losing the battle against AIDS?"


The main points of his presentation were the following:

1. DENIAL
1.1 Denial by those not affected by Aids
1.2 Denial by countries affected by Aids
1.3 Denial by individuals affected by Aids


2. THE TYPICAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS SEX
3. MIGRANT LABOUR
4. PROSTITUTION
5. BREASTFEEDING
6. USELESS METHODS TO PREVENT AIDS
7. THE MYTH OF "SAFE SEX"

8. IS THERE AN ANSWER TO THIS PROBLEM?

  • People from a Western background need to understand the disastrous effects of Aids.
  • People from the African background need to understand more about the causes of Aids and take responsibility for their part in the spreading thereof.
  • Christians will have to be taught that the acceptance of salvation in Christ needs to be demonstrated in a Godly life.
  • God's will for marriages should be explained in a way that will really speak to the Africans.
  • The very sensitive topic of sex should be addressed in a way that the people of Africa can relate to
    God's will for the family should also be addressed effectively.
  • The problem of migrant labour needs to be addressed and people will have to be convinced that a choice for a lower salary but a more Godly family life is a worthwhile choice to make.
  • Recent research has shown that most Christians (more than 80%) had accepted Christ as Saviour between the ages of 4 and 14. If we want to win the battle against Aids, then this is the age to start with.

(Anyone wanting to read the full paper, can download it from http://community.gospelcom.net/Brix?pageID=7870 or contact him directly at wyngaard@lando.co.za

The second presentation was done by Dr Sylvester Mathenjwa, a medical doctor in Piet Retief, who touched two topics, namely the cultural issue surrounding HIV/AIDS as well as the medical issues.
At a specific company in Piet Retief he had conducted tests on many of the employees. More than 20% of those who were HIV-positive were Whites, proving that this is not a "Black" problem as many still tend to think. Employers may be well advised to start treating their HIV-positive employees with ARVs as treatment will be cheaper on the long run than constantly training new people to do the work.


The virus was discovered in 1981 and the virus causes the body to lose its ability to fight against diseases. Most people have the bacteria which causes TB but because of a healthy lifestyle this disease remains dormant. When the body's immune system collapses as in the case of AIDS, then dormant diseases such as TB can flare up.


One reason why it took so long to acknowledge the danger of HIV was a political one: it was originally seen as a Gay disease

.
It has to be understood that drugs cannot cure HIV/AIDS but can only contain it. Although vaccines have already been produced, there are still many ethical problems surrounding this issue as it has to be tested on humans and the question arises who will get the real vaccine and who will get a harmless fluid which cannot protect them against HIV.


On the culture he mentioned issues which could influence the occurrence of HIV/AIDS, which included:

  • Women are seen to be inferior to men
  • Polygama
  • Testing of virginity
  • Traditionally sex on the thighs of women were allowed where vaginal intercourse are now acceptable
  • Children before marriage are no longer a taboo
  • A good man will have many girlfriends
  • When a man dies, the brother is supposed to take the wives

Some of the solutions suggested included the following:

  • The role of women need to be addressed
  • The lobola system has to be changed to allow young people to get married without having to save money for many years to pay the labola
  • Polygama has to be reduced
  • Divorced people should live celibate
  • A widow should not be forced to have sex with her brother-in-law

The third session was led by Dr Arnau van Wyngaard, in the absence of Pastor Bongani Langa, who had to attend the funeral of a relative in Maputu.


He presented the final report which was compiled during the meeting of the Reformed Ecumenical Council held in the Netherlands during July 2005 and in which a new attitude of the church towards HIV/AIDS was described. All attendees received a full copy of the report. It can also be downloaded in Acrobat format from http://www.jeugfokus.org.za/CABSA/HIV-AIDS%20AC5.3.pdf

The last session was led by Ms Corrie Oosthuizen from the Project Support Association (PSA). She started by explaining the background of the organisation (working amongst migrant labourers and sex workers) and later focussing on home-based care and orphan support. In their home-based caring program they not only focus on HIV-positive people but on all terminally ill people.


If the church wants to get involved with such a program, it will have to do the following:

  • The church needs to enter the homes and to get closely involved with those suffering
  • It will have to take the hands of the volunteers and walk the walk with them
  • The church will have to change its attitude: before I have not changed I cannot expect change
  • Orphans need shelter, clothes, food, schooling

The second part of PSA's presentation was done by Ms Felicity Sibiya, using Ms Rose Gomo as interpreter. She spoke about the practical implementation of such a program, which included the following:

Recruiting:

  • Recruit people in their homes
  • Ask all people interested to gather in one place
  • As long as a person shows commitment, education and background is not so important
  • Select the correct people according to criteria decided on beforehand
  • Explain what they will do

Preparation:

  • Do a mapping of the area, determining where hospitals, clinics etc are located for future referral purposes
  • Look at the distances to these places
  • Zone area - volunteers must not travel too far - be able to walk
  • Training is done in one central place for all volunteers
  • Have a coordinator at a site who is responsible for the project
  • Coordinators are trained 4 times per year
  • Coordinators train the volunteers on weekly basis
  • Initial training takes place over five days
  • Quality of care needs to be maintained by visiting sites
  • Every month the coordinator will compile a report which will be sent to the head office

Orphans:

  • Home-based care cannot be a success if orphans are ignored
  • Volunteers give advice and clothes to children
  • Volunteers visit schools to discuss school fees
  • Assist in immunisation, birth certificates, grants, etc
  • May have to find safe accommodation for children
  • Cannot do it alone - community needs to be involved
  • With child-headed homes the volunteers will have to give some form of security to the children
  • One person needs to be allocated for the orphans
  • Look for foster parents
  • Set up community committee and train them to look after orphans

After lunch, the group divided into three smaller groups discussing:


General involvement in HIV/AIDS programs
Starting a project in Piet Retief
Starting a project at Dwaleni (Swaziland)

Group 1 (General involvement in HIV/AIDS programs)
Home-based caring should become the platform through which the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken into the homes of people

Group 2 (Starting a project in Piet Retief)
There already exists a Home-based care group. These people would like to join the group on a Thursday and find a way forward together with them

Group 3 (Starting a project at Dwaleni)

  • The focus will be home-based caring
  • No money is available at this stage
  • Caring for Shiselweni can assist in raising funds
  • The area consists of about 200 homesteads and at least 80 orphans, probably more
  • The social workers in the area need to be part of the program
  • Volunteers need to be identified
  • Shorty Khumalo & Robert Mkhonta are already available
  • Andriette Ries, Lenie du Plessis and Michelle McCubbin will also assist in a coordinating role
  • PSA will be able to help with the stipends of the volunteers
  • Start with 10 volunteers which can be increased as the need arises
  • Stipend may not be paid regularly
  • Robert will be a spokesperson to speak to the community as he is the acting chief of the area
  • There is already a home-based caring program in the area, but the 12 volunteers have no training, do not receive a stipend and are only doing counselling
  • It is decided that it is essential to have a meeting with them in order to make them realise that any new program will not exclude them and that it will be to our mutual benefit to take hands
  • People from other areas may also be invited to join the training, such as Mbongweni
  • The interested people from Piet Retief also need to become part of the program. They can play a role in things such as training in income-generating projects, administration, fundraising, collecting food and clothes and just giving moral support


Next meeting will be held on Saturday 3 December at 09h00 at Dwaleni. The contact person will be Shorty: 6154228

After thanking all those present for their presence and participation, the conference was ended by prayer.

 

The Chairman for the day was Mr Zaccheus Madlala and the secretary Mrs Jacky Pretorius
Some of the attendees of the AIDS conference
Ms Corrie Oosthuizen in the middle with two of her co-workers at Project Support Association