Today we met with the director of SWAPOL (Swaziland Positive Living) and she is one tough cookie! She and 4 other HIV positive women started the organization in 2001 when they were experiencing stigma and did not have access to resources or support groups. They currently have programs in 55 rural areas that aim to create support groups, offer HIV education and prevention, provide food security, and administer mobile clinics. She said that lately the government’s Ministry of Health has decided to start offering ARV medication to those who have a T-cell count of 350 (it used to be only when the person’s T-cell count was as low as 200 which is considered full blown AIDS). This is both good news and bad news. It’s great that the victims are not required to wait for treatment until they experiencing the organ failure and opportunistic infections associated with the 200 count lowered immune system; but the country does not have enough money/drugs to disseminate to everyone who is at 350 or below so now there is a waiting list for people who are positive waiting for treatment. Regardless of the challenges they are facing, SWAPOL is doing great work! They provide community gardens and bolster people’s subsistence farms for those who are positive in rural areas to ensure that they are consuming adequate nutrition (which is required to maintain health while receiving the ARV drugs). They also have a mobile clinic that provides treatment for opportunistic infections in 30 rural areas that lack access to government clinics. They also have a team of pro-bono lawyers who will fight for widows of HIV victims. These women tend to lose everything when their in-laws come and seize the properties so SWAPOL has tried to end this “property grabbing”. They’ve also developed income-generating programs for HIV victims including producing candles, peanut butter, Vaseline, vegetable seedlings, and floor polish. Tomorrow morning we will be delivering bags full of clothes, toothbrushes, and toiletries to SWAPOL HIV victims. This afternoon we will be delivering food to two more child-headed homes. I’ll post more tomorrow from home – right now Katy & I are borrowing the internet from Spur and enjoying a White Grapetiser.
If you want to support any of our GHFP kiddos - I have been (slowly at the speed of our Swazi internet) creating our sponsorship page for the 2014 tuition:
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! (SIYABONGA SIYABONGA SIYABONGA!!)