Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project (BLC)

{Photo credit: Susana Galdos/MSH, South Africa}Photo credit: Susana Galdos/MSH, South Africa

Just a few months ago, the province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, captured the world’s attention for unfortunate reasons: xenophobic attacks on foreign African nationals. This week, from June 9 to 12 in Durban, the same province is hosting the 7th South African AIDS conference, a gathering expected to bring together thousands of activists from within the country, the Southern African region and, indeed, the rest of the continent and the world, to “reflect, refocus, and renew” efforts in response to HIV and AIDS.

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho

This post originally appeared on the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE) as "Meeting the needs of vulnerable children: where are we and where do we need to go?".

The first Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children (LCVC), December 8-11, 2014, reflected upon the state of the response to vulnerable children and facilitated a systematic approach of generating and articulating evidence for future direction for an efficient, effective, and well-coordinated response within the region.

The opening plenary session strategically addressed the regional, national, and community response to vulnerable children.

 {Photo credit: MSH.}Women test their new eyeglasses received at The Luke Commission’s mobile clinic in Swaziland.Photo credit: MSH.

The Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa (BLC) Project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), provided a grant to The Luke Commission (TLC) to deliver safe medical male circumcision to men and boys in Swaziland. The BLC Project also provides organizational capacity building support to TLC. A version of this post originally appeared on the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE) blog.

Imagine the impact of a mobile clinic on your life if you lived in a rural area, did not earn an income, and could not afford to pay for transport to the clinic in the nearest city when you were ill. This situation results in some people waiting too long to access treatment for serious conditions—or putting off simple diagnostic tests for tuberculosis or HIV—and is why a mobile clinic is of such monumental importance to communities in Swaziland.

{Photo credit: MSH/Johanna Theunissen}Photo credit: MSH/Johanna Theunissen

Cross-posted with permission from the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE).

I used to smile at the sentimental nickname for Lesotho, “The Mountain Kingdom.” Following a few visits to the capital Maseru, I had the opportunity to travel to the district of Mokhotlong, in the east of the country. Here I discovered that this term is more literal than symbolic, and no laughing matter. Narrow gravel roads with incredible switchback turns had me engaging in lively discussion in the car to avoid thinking about how close I was to the edge. More important than experiencing the rugged beauty of the physical landscape, it was on this trip that I began to discover and appreciate the grace and resilience of Lesotho’s people. A subsequent trip to Mohale’s Hoek, a district south of Maseru (further explained below) reinforced my growing admiration.

{Photo credit: MSH/South Africa.}Photo credit: MSH/South Africa.

Cross-posted from SHARE: Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Regional Exchange. (SHARE is an initiative of the USAID Southern Africa Regional HIV/AIDS Program with support from the Knowledge for Health project and the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service.)

Health workers listen during the Mahalapye Hospital staff meeting, Botswana. {Photo credit: MSH/}Photo credit: MSH/

“J’mappelle Mompati. Comment t’appelles tu?”

Overcoming my confusion at being greeted by a French-speaking man in Botswana, I smile, take his proffered hand and reply in my rusty, stilted French, “J’mappelle Naume...”

Mompati is Mahalapye Hospital’s dynamic public relations officer. Now that he has my full attention, Mompati wastes no time in telling me about his work linking the hospital and the surrounding community through events and the media. We exchange contacts and he hands me a few copies of his newsletter before dashing off to his duties.

Mahalapye is a small town in the Central District of Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Situated along the main road between the capital, Gaborone, and the second largest city, Francistown, Mahalapye is a convenient stopover place.

The hospital has been recently renovated and serves 300 outpatients a day and up to 200 inpatients.

Nine female orphans and vulnerable children and two CIL staff members. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Early in the morning of January 31, 2012, caregivers, support group members, village leaders, and the local council secretary gathered to say goodbye to 9 girls and 11 boys, orphaned youth ranging in age from 15 to 17. From 10 different villages in the Mohale’s Hoek district of Lesotho, these teens were headed for new horizons.

The adults wished the youth well, encouraged them to try their very best, and waved them off as they boarded the bus. The early morning air was full of jubilant traditional celebration songs sung in beautiful voices by the community members, and these adventurous youth carried these songs with them during their journey. Although the bus broke down three times on its way to the final destination (approximately 130 kilometers on mountainous, pothole-filled roads), the singing continued; the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth never waned despite the hot sticky weather and the heavy rains.

Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDSInside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS

Kalu, a young man from Kenya, dreamed of becoming a star footballer (soccer player). Little did he know when he traveled to South Africa to pursue his dream that he carried in him a hidden passenger: the HIV virus. And little did he know that his forbidden romance with Ify, the coach’s daughter, would spread the virus, infecting her with HIV.

Presented by Discovery Channel Global Education Partnerships (DCGEP) and produced by Curious Pictures, Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS is a modern tale of young love with false accusations, heartbreak and ultimately reconciliation. Inside Story is an African sports drama, with team rivalries, individual jealousies and xenophobia. In its most creative dimension, Inside Story is a masterful and pioneering AIDS education vehicle with sophisticated animated clips that show the science of HIV including the virus infecting cells.

Members of the Heteka Support group with the BLC-NANASO team after the CSO mapping and capacity assessment interview was completed. Photo credit: MSH

Namibia, with just 2.2 million people, has one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world, at roughly 13.1 percent. The country’s small population is spread over a large geographic area, making the delivery of AIDS services a challenge especially in remote villages. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a large role in the AIDS response here, but often have few staff, limited resources, and are not formally recognized by the Namibian government, which makes it harder for them to advocate for resources.

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