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Community caregivers hailed essential to African HIV response

Tuesday, 10 September, 2013

A new study, conducted by the Caregivers Action Network (CAN) and Cordaid, has highlighted the importance of caregivers in the HIV response at community level in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings of the study, which was conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, confirm that community caregivers “play an invaluable service delivery role”, which spans many different areas – providing both clinical and social support, as well as encouraging treatment adherence and giving psychosocial support to people living with HIV. In particular, the report outlines the growing importance of social support services, such as access to sustainable nutrition and livelihoods, and emotional support, for HIV positive people in this region.

Community caregivers have long played a crucial role in the provision of support to people living with HIV in their own homes, particularly in Southern Africa where the epidemic has hit hardest. Their role is well documented, but the challenges they face and the lack of support and remuneration they receive has only recently been the focus of investigation. As this study outlines, governments are slowly beginning to formalise the community caregiving profession to ensure it is incorporated into the formal health system. However, the necessary access to social security and wages remain a significant challenge among careworkers at community level.

Findings of the CAN and Cordaid study complement research conducted by AVERT’s partner in South Africa ( RADAR) over the last three and a half years. The study, entitled the Care in the Home Study ( CHoS), sought to analyse the quality of care provided in the home in rural South Africa (Mpumalanga). The study found only 50 percent of caregivers receive a stipend for their work, and those that do are receiving different amounts. It also revealed that caregivers have such heavy workloads that they are often unable to visit all of their clients, they do not receive the support they require themselves and frequently use their own funds to pay for costs for their clients. This situation is a reflection of poor coordination and collaboration between different government departments, and a lack of involvement of home-based care organisations in decision-making.

The findings of the CHoS study are being shared with key local and regional government stakeholders to encourage the translation of this research into action. Further information about the CHoS study can be accessed via this link.