News | 1 Dec 2023
Community based organisations are important because they intensify case finding, increase awareness and knowledge and assist in making people access primary healthcare” – Carole Mdluli, Rophe Community Services
The decrease in HIV prevalence by 1.3% since 2017 shown in the latest HSRC survey is a result of collaborative efforts, with donors, government, the private sector and civil society all playing their part. Community organisations, as local advocates, play a crucial role in case identification, raising awareness, and ensuring accessible healthcare. By partnering with these community-driven initiatives, we’ve witnessed a positive shift in a pandemic which once ravaged South African communities. However, gaps in the response persist, including reaching young people and encouraging them to adopt prevention options, addressing human rights abuses impacting vulnerable populations, ensuring accessible services in communities, and providing community organisations with flexible funding, capacity building, and networking.
“As an organisation, we faced the issue of capacity. We started the organisation with no experience. We didn’t have enough trained staff.” Says Thandi Khanyile from Thy Kingdom Care, a community organisation providing social and health care services to orphans and vulnerable across the Sedibeng District in Gauteng.
The HIV epidemic continues to disproportionately affect certain demographic groups, with Black Africans, women, and youth being particularly vulnerable. Thandi Khanyile emphasises the role of community-based organisations in reaching those most affected, saying, “Community-based organisations are very important because they are closer to the community. They know, they understand the challenges and the needs of the community. Now that we are capacitated we can educate the community better.”
NACOSA plays a significant role in addressing some of the challenges that persist in South Africa’s AIDS response. Reaching around 390,000 people yearly with HIV, TB, and GBV-related services, we collaborate with over 765 organisations working on the frontline in communities, including 121 implementing organisations and 53 nascent organisations undergoing capacity-building support.
“There were key things that we’ve learnt from NACOSA that helped us to grow in terms of taking care of the finances of the organisation,” says Thandi, “The capacity building has helped us to build relationships with government and other stakeholders. After capacity building, we knew the power of collaboration.”
Carole Mdluli from Rophe Community Services, a health and counselling organisation in Bezuidenhout Valley, highlights the importance of mentorship: “Having a mentor was very useful for us as an organisation. It brought us innovative ideas. It made us know how to sustain our programmes. It helped us to plan.”
Umthombo Wempilo, a youth organisation working in Khayelitsha, was also supported with capacity building and mentoring. Buhlebenkosi Msipha and Nikelwa Msipha from the organisation express how NACOSA’s capacity building impacted both their organisation and individuals, emphasising the importance of financial planning for sustainability. “It was not only about funding, it was also about giving good quality programmes to the community,” explains Nikelwa Msipha.
The sustainability of community organisations like Umthombo Wempilo, Rophe and Thy Kingdom Care, and the quality of services they provide, are critical to closing the final mile in the country’s AIDS response. “It’s the lifeblood of every community,” says Buhlebenkosi Msipha talking about community organisations, “Especially as it plays a role of a catalyst in bringing the services to the people.”
As the nation reflects on World AIDS Day, with its theme “Let Communities Lead”, continued collective efforts, with communities at the centre, and targeted support are essential to overcome the remaining challenges in the fight against HIV.
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