Helping hand for those affected by HIV/Aids

Members of the Community Strength Action Aids Network.

A group of Manenberg residents have pooled their skills to start a support group for people affected by HIV/ Aids.

The members of the Community Strength Action Aids Network had all been part of another organisation, and when it closed its doors, they established this group, as they wanted the important work to continue.

The Manenberg-based organisation was started two years ago with five members, and it has since grown to 20. The network is also in the process of being registered as a non-profit organisation, and is being run from one of the member’s houses in Rio Grande Street.

Spokesperson Zalia van Tonder said the challenges around HIV/Aids in her community are as prevalent as ever.

“When it comes to HIV and Aids, not everyone has a positive mindset. The stigma is still rife. There are many people in Manenberg who are infected with the virus, but they continue to live in denial, because of the stigma attached. We want to educate people about HIV and Aids,” Ms Van Tonder said.

Re-establishing an organisation that deals with HIV/Aids was the vision of project manager, Clive Maart, and the group initially started the programme by training new recruits and planning ahead.

“The challenge here in Manenberg is big and I don’t think there is another organisation in Manenberg that does work around HIV/Aids. We are running with this, by the grace of God,” Mr Maart said.

The network, besides being a support group, also educates people about HIV/ Aids, and helps them get the help they need from the clinic, like those who are too embarrassed to collect their medication. Over the past two months, Mr Maart himself has assisted at least seven people. The group also has a feeding scheme that they run from their own pockets, once a week.

Said Ms Van Tonder: “HIV is a chronic illness. It is no longer a death sentence, but one still finds people not willing to take their medication, because they have given up on life. Our mission is to unite and heal our community, and our vision is to educate and motivate those who are sick – to rise above their situation.

“We also go door-to-door to educate the community. Some of our members work full-time, and they help us on their off days. We are also planning to introduce arts and crafts, and many of us are also home-based carers. We have big dreams for our organisation, but for now, our biggest need is funding. We hope that after being registered, we can apply for funding from government,” Ms Van Tonder said.

She added that confidentiality is a big priority for their organisation, and people can be assured that their information will not be shared with anyone.Call Mr Maart at 078 616 4196 or Ms Van Tonder at 079 644 4018.