Fr Jean-Charles Kubanabantu SJ, Parlons-SIDA, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The year 2016 was full of chronic challenges for people living with HIV in Kisangani, in Congo’s Eastern Province. It would be wonderful if these problems could be assuaged in 2017. Chief among these is a deficit in AIDS awareness outside urban areas, where there are few or no testing facilities. Many are the people who come for help from outlying rural areas only when they are at an advanced stage of AIDS.
Then there is the lack of properly trained and motivated service providers to deliver medical care to people living with HIV. Not only are doctors and nurses untrained, they work in structures that do not have the necessary laboratory equipment, especially to test for hepatitis, CD4 count and viral load, and to monitor resistance to ARVs. Many primary health care centres are anyhow out of reach for people in urban areas, simply because they are too far away.
At another level, a sense of shame, taboos (silence) surrounding sex, and stigma remain potent obstacles in the struggle against AIDS. Add to this the conflicting messages for people living with HIV, especially from dishonest pastors who conduct ‘deliverances’ and ‘miraculous healings’, or from charlatans and traditional healers who are locked in a world of bad luck and sorcery.
Economic challenges cannot be forgotten. Unemployment among youth is at its highest point here, heralding a lack of future perspective, and likely leading to delinquency and family problems.
Re-doubling efforts to mobilise resources that will in turn rally communities is a key priority action for 2017.There are reasons for hope here, especially in the post-2015 development framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and the UNAIDS fast-track 90-90-90 strategy for HIV and AIDS. These frameworks determine the hopes taking shape on the horizon that HIV and AIDS may finally be eradicated.
Further the UN “All In” platform, which is focused on ending adolescent AIDS, validates the efforts of AJAN’s AHAPPY program. AHAPPY aims for the integral development and mobilisation of young people and adolescents in the struggle against HIV and AIDS.