Africa fights pandemic through caring

Windhoek- Namibia (PANA) -- You may call it a week of concerted action against HIV/AIDS.
And so it was.
At the United Nations in New York, several African leaders were meeting the international community urging it to step up efforts to save the continent from the scourge of the pandemic.
As if by connivance or coincidence, things were also happening elsewhere about the same time.
For instance, in Namibia over 400 delegates from six countries of the Southern African Development Community and the United States were also meeting in the capital Windhoek to discuss the "most effective cure of HIV/AIDS.
" The delegates, most of them HIV/AIDS experts from Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the US, pooled their resources together in the first-ever four-day international conference of this nature.
But the purpose of the meeting was somewhat different from the New York setting.
The delegates did not come to Windhoek to ask the international community to provide cheap anti-retroviral drugs.
Neither were they here to extend receiving hands for billions of dollars to fight the disease.
They gathered from 27 to 30 June to discuss the most "effective and appropriate strategy of dealing with HIV/AIDS today " - caring, coping and self-healing.
The conference, which was the brain-child of the Catholics AIDS Action in Namibia, offered a prescription mostly based on Christian principles, namely that man must reach out to those in need without regard to the nature of their affliction.
The meeting premised on the fact that care giving is hard work.
It can be painful and tiring.
"But when we believe that we are doing something meaningful and effective, there is real no burnout.
" At the same time, the meeting expressed that it would be impossible to take care of other people unless people learnt how to take care of themselves.
"If we deplete our own God-given resources, then we will fail in our efforts to help others," the meeting felt.
Among the officials that addressed the meeting was the Namibian Minister for Women affairs and Child Welfare, Netumbo Ndaitwah, who told the delegates that the HIV/AIDS scourge had overwhelmed strategies to cope with the disease.
But she noted that quality care could still be given to the patients as long as the morale and well being of the caregivers was guaranteed.
Noting that women as custodians of health in their families and communities forget to take care of themselves, the minister said in order to take care of other people, one ought to understand and appreciate the need to love oneself.
She said with statistics showing that 22 percent of Namibia's pregnant women were HIV-positive, such grim figures gave projections that things would get worse and all concerned people needed to take part and volunteer to meet the objectives of reducing the cases of the deadly virus.
Charge d'Affaires of the US embassy, Thurmond Borden, said in the absence of a real cure for the pandemic, caring was the most important weapon to fight HIV/AIDS.
"Today we are seized by the problems of HIV/AIDS; leaders must stand up and eliminate the disease and the stigma that goes with it," said Borden whose government was one of the major financiers of the conference.
Assistant professor in the School of Business and Economics at North Carolina State University in Elizabeth City, Jan Robinson, also stressed that under the present situation where there is no cure for AIDS, caring was the most effective weapon to fight the threat all over the world.
Robinson, who for the past 20 years has been involved in community development work in various US inner cities, said it was now time for people to take stock of themselves and achieve an inner balance.
"AIDS has come to destroy us and has brought a lot of suffering.
My hope and dream is that we will overcome AIDS through unity," she observed.
Volunteer caregivers who address the conference spoke of fear and frustration as they were faced with the burden of care, cross infection and stigma as people did not want to associate with them.
"The need is very high as numbers of victims are rising every day, while hunger and poverty are also increasing," said Elizabeth Thomas, one of Namibia's volunteer caregivers.
"We feel tired and frustrated and become frightened in the end," she added, expressing hope that the conference would help caregivers acquire skills to be able to care for patients more effectively.
Delegates of the conference, known as "Caring for Ourselves to Care for Others," may not have achieved any breakthrough in the cure of HIV/AIDS.
But as one delegate from Zambia put it: "The interaction and networking were simply stimulating.
Under the present circumstances, all we need is care giving.
But we need to care for ourselves first," said Cecilia Wright, Executive Director Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS.

05 july 2001 08:11:00

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