An African women’s organization says it takes more than food and shelter to care for AIDS orphans. The Society for Women and AIDS in Africa addressed the issue at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. Agnes Mkosa of Tanzania says in order for AIDS orphans to become productive members of society, they must first learn to cope with the tragedy in their lives. Mkosa, the international coordinator for the Society of Women and AIDS in Africa, says the effects of losing one or both parents to AIDS cannot be underestimated. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua was in attendance.
Agnes Mkosa of Tanzania says in order for AIDS orphans to become productive members of society, they must first learn to cope with the tragedy in their lives.
“We have discovered that people have been supporting these children material wise and leave alone their psychological needs, which is a very important issue in these children. So, we have decided to train all caregivers caring for vulnerable children or orphans. So that they can be cared under psychological needs.”
Mkosa, the international coordinator for the Society of Women and AIDS in Africa, says the effects of losing one or both parents to AIDS cannot be underestimated.
“The children who are orphaned or are vulnerable are being affected mentally because they miss the love of their parents. You know, once a child is born (he or she) will have a basic need of love from their mother and from the father. But if this child missed love of either the mother or the father (he or she) will have mental disturbance. And a mental disturbance for these children as they are growing up, they will end up to be drunk abusers. Or they want to settle their life and their future. We are going to have a generation, which is not settled.”
Mkosa says AIDS orphans are helped through social activities, such as plays, handicrafts and making sure they attend school.
She says most of the caregiving for these children is done by women, adding, “All women are affected by AIDS.”
“If it is not in their family, respective family, even a neighbor or a relative is affected. So, bearing in mind that women, they are the ones who take care of everything. Women are answerable officially as unemployed women and then domestically are answerable for all domestic activity in the house. Also this woman has to be aware that there is AIDS. That is another task for her. Also this woman has to take care of children to see that the children are ok and that they are being taken care of effectively.”
The organization has a number of ways to help empower women to deal with the stressful situations.
“For example, a woman has to be independent. So we can empower this woman through income generating activities. If the woman can have enough money to be independent, to use the money to cope with any situation relating to her life, that is one way of empower such a woman. If this woman has been taught the importance of the HIV test, we’re empowering her. Just to have the knowledge that there’s a need to be tested early and there is a need if found she is positive to cope with a life being positive, we’re empowering her.”
The Society for Women and AIDS in Africa has chapters in 40 countries. Mkosa says the Tanzania chapter helps about 2,000 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. She says they’d like to reach to many more children, but are limited by a lack of funds.
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