New life in limpopo district AIDS councils
Under the previous National Strategic Plan (NSP), Limpopo failed to develop provincial strategic or operational plans. Without these plans, the NSP was never going to deliver the change it promised for the province. Now, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) Mopani and other civil society groups are helping to turn the situation around.
During the period covered by the previous NSP Limpopo met very few targets identified in the national plan. The province did develop its own “Framework for HIV/AIDS”, but never drew up any strategic or operational plans. Some district AIDS councils were set up, but they seldom met.
The Treatment Action Campaign in Mopani decided that this had to change. Joining forces with other civil society organisations they started to lobby Limpopo’s Provincial MEC for Health, Norman Mabasa. The campaigning paid off; towards the end of 2011 the Premier’s office began to participate in a review of the previous NSP and in drafting the new NSP (2012–2016). Drafts of provincial strategic and operational plans soon followed.
However, TAC Mopani recognised that for the new NSP to succeed, it would not be enough to have everything in place at the provincial level. They decided to make the functioning of district, local, and ward AIDS councils their priority for 2012.
TAC members in Mopani had previously been involved with AIDS councils, but these councils no longer met. TAC checked with the local municipality for any meeting or activity schedules for AIDS councils, but there were none. The councils were clearly not in operation.
“TAC demanded to know … the situation with both the District AIDS Council and the Local AIDS Council … and why these structures were not functional. We were referred to the District Municipality and the Mayoral Office,” says Amukelani Maluleke, District Coordinator for TAC Mopani.
At the same time, TAC managed to arrange a meeting with MEC Mabasa to raise concerns about the lack of functioning AIDS councils. TAC argued that without a revival of these councils Limpopo could not fully implement the Provincial Operational Plan. Mabasa agreed to escalate the issue. At a meeting of the Provincial AIDS Council he called for all AIDS councils to be operational before the end of July 2012.
Communities must be represented
Significant as this victory was, simply having AIDS councils is not enough. We need people on these bodies who can represent the interests of patients and the community in a responsible way. With this in mind, TAC wrote to Mopani Municipality, asking for representation on all clinic committees and AIDS councils.
The District AIDS Council for Mopani was finally launched on 14 June 2012, and Sebenzile Khumalo, a representative of TAC, was appointed to the council.
That launch was soon followed by another — this time for the Greater Letaba Local AIDS Council (LAC). Both Doreen Ramaselele, a TAC Community Mobiliser, and Lisbeth Lebiya, from TAC Kgapane branch were appointed to the Letaba LAC.
Maluleke and Solly Milambo, Chairperson of TAC Limpopo, are also part of the Monitoring and Evaluation framework development team for the Provincial Operational Plan.
It is now up to these TAC members to represent on the councils the interests of people affected by HIV and TB. If there are medicine stockouts, these members must raise the issue in their AIDS councils. If there are not enough condoms available for distribution, it is their job to draw attention to the problem.
Finally, it is important that we do not to stop at reviving district and local AIDS councils. We need to create smaller councils at ward level. In this way it will become easier to raise awareness about problems on the ground from ward to district to provincial levels — and even to the national level.
[box]“It is here [that] government can start to understand our role as TAC, to understand that all along we were not fighting against the government or Department of Health, but that we were trying to ensure that policies addressing HIV/AIDS were properly implemented.” – Solly Milambo, Chairperson, TAC Limpopo.[/box]
by Sibongile Nkosi