An important message to the person finding out that they are infected is that a healthy, continued life is possible (don’t give up!) ARV medication holds out a lifeline, and studies point to the enormous difference made by nutrition, basic food safety, adequate sleep and a positive attitude.
With only 0.7% of the world’s population, South Africa carries almost one-fifth of the global HIV carriers. The situation in neighbouring states is not much better. HIV/AIDS is a national and also a regional issue.
Estimates from the International Labour Organisation suggest that South Africa’s agricultural workforce could decline by more than 15% by 2020 due to HIV and AIDS. Losing skilled workers has a significant impact on productivity, but there are also social challenges. How do you deal with a household that is now without an income? And what if there are orphans that are left behind?
Farm workers are the most under-serviced labourers in South Africa. Poor access to health care and health-related information is partly due to their remote location of work. The high incidence of poverty and low level of education makes the farm worker even more vulnerable to the impact of HIV and AIDS. And lack of awareness is compounded by high levels of stigma around the issue, a problem because the stigma severely tests and often severs the safety net of support from village and extended family. Workers are scared to test and fear that they might be HIV positive. Unfortunately not knowing your status and not testing will not remedy this situation.
Farmers often don’t know where to turn to in order to help their workers.
The cost of HIV/AIDS is largely borne by rural communities. Infected urban dwellers often return to their villages of origin where rural households (particularly women) provide most of the care. The rural families pick up the bill for food, medical costs and funeral expenses.
The burden of the socio-economic impact disproportionately affects rural women. Widows become poorer as they lose access to land, property, inputs, credit and support services.
The impact on children is severe as the increasing number of orphans bring the coping mechanisms of many extended families to breaking point. Withdrawal from school, a decrease in food intake, a decline in inherited assets and less attention from caretakers are among the adverse effects of the epidemic on children.
Adapted from Topouzis, Addressing the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Ministries of Agriculture: Focus on Eastern and Southern Africa.
The stigma, different misconceptions and the fear to die alone if diagnosed with HIV, especially in rural settings, necessitate that a HIV/AIDS policy needs to be built upon trust and confidence amongst all the players/stakeholders. Involvement of all stakeholders in an early stage helps building the necessary team approach. Before starting awareness sessions for the farm workers, the farmer / farm management need to speak to the farm workers, indicating commitment and stipulating assurance that people will not be fired (one of the fears is that they will be fired if tested positive). By implementing an HIV programme the hope is that the workers are more knowledgeable about the importance of a healthy life style.
Source: AgriAid. Contact them at 012 320 8455 or visit www.agriaids.org.za.
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