You can live with HIV, but few in Twopiece Khumalo’s community in Luve, Swaziland, believed it before 2007. Afraid of the AIDS diagnosis and the stigma that came with it, many refused to be tested; those who were confirmed HIV positive hid away with their secret. Without treatment, they were, as Khumalo remembers, “dying like flies.”
In 2007, four people came together for training to become the new Nazarene HIV/AIDS Taskforce and began door-to-door visits within the community. They checked on their neighbors regularly, caring for the sick and initiating a support group for those living with HIV and AIDS. The group leaders spoke openly about the realities of the diagnosis, emphasizing that life with the virus was still possible.
“We wanted people to know who to contact if they needed help,” said Khumalo, who heads the support group. “We wanted to come out openly and say, ‘Here I am, taking ARVs [antiretroviral drugs], but, you see, I am still living.’ We wanted to encourage others that you can live a good life, even with HIV.”
The taskforce leaders emphasize the importance of a balanced diet to stay healthy. This is no easy task in Swaziland, especially when the rains are scarce and individuals’ gardens suffer, so the support group began a collective garden large enough to provide regular balanced meals for 42 families in the community. Through support from the area chief and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, the garden has improved the quality of the families’ lives. Income from extra vegetables even pays for their children’s school and helps with medical expenses.
A Growing Response to a Growing Need
More than 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2011. Through appropriate medical care, community health initiatives, education, and awareness, the quality of life is increasing for many of these people.
But it’s not an easy battle, and it’s far from over. While the numbers are decreasing, an estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2011, while in the same year 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is making headway in communities affected by HIV/AIDS through the coordinated efforts of Nazarene church leaders, staff, volunteers, and community partners.
Home care for people with HIV is a key aspect of the community-based health care training in Papua New Guinea. Congregations in Zambia mentor children who have been orphaned by the pandemic. In Ukraine, teams of volunteers teach AIDS prevention in schools and prisons. One USA ministry center offers art therapy for people living with the virus.
“Knowledge Brings Freedom”
Initiatives around the world target many of the same needs in each local community by offering spiritual support and counseling for patients and their families, educating communities about AIDS prevention, equipping leaders to address HIV and AIDS in their communities, caring for children orphaned by the pandemic, supporting projects that provide food security to needy communities, and training volunteers to visit and care for those in their community living with AIDS.
In Swaziland, Khumalo knows that consistent, holistic support will offer his community a quality of life they never imagined. And the best way to change expectations is for the church to show what’s possible.
“We believe that knowledge brings freedom,” Khumalo said. “We believe that one day, people will stop looking at HIV as something they have to bear on their own.”
Learn more about effects of the virus, along with NCM’s response at ncm.org/worldaidsday, or join with the network of people fighting to slow the spread of AIDS and increase patients’ quality of life by investing financially.
—Nazarene Compassionate Ministries