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– We have taken up the fight against AIDS because it impacts so deeply on the lives of poor people. We also see it as a new front of struggle and feel that the way one conducts this struggle can help to build civil society, people’s power and accountable and responsive local government, says Beatie Hofmeyr national manager at The Education and Training Unit (ETU).

ETU is an organization that has been supported by the Palme Centre for the last five years to take up the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa. ETU has helped more than half the municipalities in South Africa to develop coordinated local responses to AIDS. The organization conducts it´s work according to the idea that AIDS can only be combated effectively if the following key things are coordinated and delivered at local level:

• Effective education, prevention and condom distribution programmes
• Awareness and de-stigmatisation programmes
• Testing and counselling
• Treatment, anti-retroviral and nutrition programmes
• Emotional support, wellness programmes and organisations for people affected
• Care for vulnerable children and support for their care givers

– Government will not succeed in delivering these programmes without the active involvement of civil society. The millions of people affected by AIDS need direct support, treatment and care, nutrition and state grants. State resources simply cannot cater to them all and the extent to which we can mobilise South Africans to care for each other will determine how well we survive this epidemic, says Beatie Hofmeyr.

Another important undertaking for ETU is to mobilise political will at provincial, district and local level among public representatives and officials. Their energetic commitment is needed to provide leadership and to use the available government resources in the best ways possible.

– For the last five years we have been helping to build local coordinating structures to improve prevention programmes and deliver a better service to those affected by the disease. Our programme brings together local municipalities, government departments and community and welfare organisations in an effort to coordinate their work and systematically extend their services to those most in need.

– We aim to extend and build on state services, by involving thousands of volunteer who can get into people’s homes and provide them with home-based care, food and emotional support for vulnerable children and access to state services, she explains.

The ETU HIV and AIDS strategy development process has been completed in more than half the municipalities in South Africa (168 out of 281). ETU provide limited ongoing support to the structures set up for coordination as well as some individual task teams and projects in the areas where the infection rate is highest and where least capacity exists to respond. The support ranges from training of project volunteers to strategic support for AIDS council coordinators. We remain active in supporting about 100 Local AIDS Councils.

Reaching policymakers

ETU has also played a role in mobilising political will by working with elected councillors and members of legislatures as well as provincial ministers and local mayors. In the last few years we have also tried to impact on the national environment by organising national seminars for policy makers and provincial and local government.

– We have also produced many publications and manuals that can be used as a resource for AIDS councils, community based organisations and local projects. Among the publications we produced was “In our hands” a booklet that showcased some of the more successful local AIDS councils’ work. We have also brought out three different editions of a community AIDS projects manual. We have distributed more than 30 000 manuals in training courses in the last four years. We also maintain an AIDS site on our website and get thousands of hits every month, says Beatie Hofmeyr.

ETUs work is carried out by fieldworkers who work consistently with specific municipalities and local projects.  They are able to tailor-make intervention to respond to local conditions and needs. Their work ranges from strategy workshops, to training and capacity building to hands-on support for project management, funding and resource mobilisation.

– At the same time the fieldworkers are able to make some lobbying and political interventions at district and provincial level to mobilise some of the support and resources needed. ETU has run a national training course for employed local AIDS coordinators so that the work can be replicated by more people.

Published: 2007-09-20

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