Shepherd’s Hospice is a non governmental organization advocating for the availability of drugs and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. And I was at the hospice in the east end of Freetown to attend the official launch of that organization’s campaign on tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS with particular reference to the aspect of treatment and the availability of treatment for patients.
There are various approaches to the issue of ensuring patients adhere to the treatment for HIV/AIDS and the TB-related illnesses. And according to the Executive Director of the hospice Gabriel Madiye, this particular approach was an innovative strategy which, to an extent, included community participation in the provision of health services to people in need in the communities.
Over the years we have seen the efforts and commitments of government agencies and even non governmental bodies in trying to address this issue of HIV/AIDS and so the involvement of Shepherd’s Hospice must be seen as an outstanding intervention that demands attention. The words by the Executive Director that his organization is working in partnership with other bodies like the National Aids Secretariat, the EU, DIFID and even the Leprosy and TB control program, shows there is every need for all to be involved in this fight.
The launch of the posters by the hospice in collaboration with other bodies is just one aspect of actually dealing with HIV issues for it is a reality that the availability of drugs is of utmost importance. According to Gabriel Madiye, they have been able to train community volunteers in identifying such cases and that his organization has been given the honor to import Oral Morphemes as a treatment for life threatening illnesses.
In all of this, two things must be of importance: The two projects that are being undertaken to fulfill this dream by Shepherd’s Hospice which are access to life project which is funded by the EU with $ 1 million dollars for a four-year period, and the health development in Sierra Leone project that is funded by the Department For International Department with £ 29,000 for a 5-year period.
I was particularly concerned to know other ways through which the organization was ensuring compliance with treatment by patients, bearing in mind the fact that all efforts would have been made by organizations but those affected and infected with the disease fail to take the drugs.
But it was interesting to learn that the organization monitors patients in the area of administering medication and that there had been jingles and even posters to communicate this to people. It is good that groups are continuing advocating for free treatment of HIV/AIDS patients since the fight itself must be multi-dimensional
Now the posters developed by Shepherd’s Hospice call on people to identify their neighbors who have coughed for a period of two or more weeks and refer them to health centers for treatment. This tells that there is the need for community participation in the identification and treatment support for those with HIV/AIDS and even tuberculosis. HIV/Aids must be fought in solidarity so that if the fight against poverty is to be successful, then we must start from addressing HIV/AIDS issue as the condition has an adverse effect on our human resource as well.
Civil society groups must all come together and be convinced that the attainment of a country’s highest quality health care should not only be left in the hands of our government but must also be promoted by the people infected and affected with the disease. This is achievable through advocacy roles to be played by civil society groups.
One other thing that must be looked at in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the issue of stigma. I listened attentively to a lady during the official lunch of the National Collaborative Stop TB/HIV campaign. She explained how they are at times being shunned by the community. For her, people with HIV/AIDS are being stigmatized and this was affecting most of the people. Consequently, people refuse to disclose their HIV status. This should not be the case as stigmatizing those with the virus will not help salvage the situation but rather create more situations.
So it is therefore good news that groups like Shepherd’s Hospice will be engaging community and religious people to see how they can help fight TB and HIV/AIDS. It is good also that 13 district mobilization officers have been trained in all the districts, which is a very strong indication that Shepherd’s Hospice is going miles in addressing these diseases.
The campaign launched by Shepherd’s Hospice should be seen as one that seeks to scale up case detection and to promote treatment success of Tuberculosis and HIV patients through community volunteers in the country. The solidarity against AIDS in the global village presents the world as a village where commandments are made for all to follow. Once these commandments are followed and the world is united against Aids, we are sure of getting a United State of Aids (USA)????
The welfare of people affected with chronic diseases should not be left in the hands of government alone. Others must be seen playing a collaborative role just like what Shepherd’s Hospice in collaboration with other partners is doing.
By John Baimba Sesay