Vienna 2010: Caregivers on frontline against HIV and AIDS


Awassa, 70, from Ethiopia cares for her grandchildren who lost parents to HIV and AIDS. She finds it hard to earn enough money to support them. Awassa, 70, from Ethiopia cares for her grandchildren who lost parents to HIV and AIDS. She finds it hard to earn enough money to support them. Photo: Kate Holt/HelpAge International

Grassroots home-based carers demonstrated their central role in responding to HIV and AIDS at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last week. They called for immediate action and investments in their organisations and initiatives.

Caregivers and the issue of care and support have gained unprecedented attention at this year's AIDS Conference.

The caregivers in question are members of the newly formed Caregivers Action Network (CAN - founded by Cordaid, HelpAge International, the Huairou Commission and VSO International).

Home-based carers on the frontline

Through participation in a large and active Networking Zone in the Global Village section of the conference, panel sessions, and a daily caucus, the caregivers have clearly stated their agenda.

"Home-based caregivers are at the frontline in the fight against HIV and AIDS," said Rachel Albone, HIV and AIDS policy adviser for HelpAge International.

"Care and support is one of the three pillars of universal access and is central to achieving prevention and treatment commitments. Yet it's still neglected in the international AIDS response, especially in terms of funding.

Public health systems rely on home-based carers

"For decades, overburdened public health systems have relied on the household and community to carry the burden of HIV and AIDS.

"Older women and young girls are often particularly affected. Older women look after their adult children and grandchildren without access to income generation or emotional support, and many girl carers miss out on school and other opportunities.

The time to change is now

"People are living longer with HIV and that is a major accomplishment. But this also means that increasing numbers of people who are HIV positive are in need of care over longer periods of time.

"Caregivers' workload is increasing, yet it remains under-resourced and under supported. The time to change this is now." 

The Caregivers Action Network is calling for the following actions:

  • Ensure that home-based care and carers are recognised by ensuring that public health funding and social protection mechanisms include and support them.
  • Fund comprehensive national policies on HIV care and increase access to quality home-based care.
  • Ensure that a minimum percentage of direct funding support is earmarked for community-led responses to AIDS, particularly those driven by women.
  • Include caregivers as decision-makers in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of resources and programmes.
  • Recognise, affirm and support community caregivers by providing adequate equipment, psychosocial support, compensation and supervisory support from health professionals.
  • Reduce household poverty and the cost of care through provision of basic services and social protection measures. This would include universal pension coverage, cash transfers, access to water, sanitation, food security, and women's land and inheritance rights.  

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