HIVSA provides grief support to Community Caregivers and Families affected by COVID 19

HIVSA has been implementing the USAID funded Preventing HIV and AIDS in Vulnerable Populations (PHVP) programme since 2018 in the City of Johannesburg, Sedibeng and Tshwane. The programme which aims to support Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Youth (OVCY) through HIV prevention and parent/ caregiver programmes is implemented through Community- Based Organisations (CBOs) that are capacitated to deliver evidence- based and sustainable programmes.

This year HIVSA aims to serve 127 629 beneficiaries which include Children Living with HIV (CLHIV) and Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW), a highly vulnerable group that continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV. In last two years, HIVSAs implementation of its OVCY programme was hampered by the effects of COVID 19. Since most of the interventions are group based, social distancing and lockdown restrictions delayed the implementation of these groups. More significant though was the concern that many of the households who had been receiving psychosocial support services would not be able to sustain their families because of the economic pressure placed on them by the pandemic. HIVSA’s concern was the CLHIV who needed to get their anti- retroviral treatment regularly to ensure treatment adherence and viral load suppression. The focus shifted to remote support and the delivery of most essential services especially to CLHIV and AGYW by creatively delivering interventions that at a minimum ensured access to treatment and survivor support to those exposed to Gender- Based Violence.

Whilst the organisation worked hard to ensure continuity in services, it became apparent that the community caregivers employed by CBOs and the families they serve were dealing with emotional impact of the grief and loss that became characteristic of the pandemic. With limited financial resources, accessing psychosocial support to deal with their trauma was deemed a luxury as the priority remained meeting the basic needs of their families. USAID, through funding received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has provided additional funding to HIVSA to intensify efforts to re-engage with beneficiaries who have discontinued services and ensure access to psychosocial support and HIV and violence prevention services. The program will also prioritise COVID-safe and/or virtual support and structured interventions, mainly grief support; parenting support; HIV care and support; prevention of sexual violence and linkage to post violence care; and support for the community care workers on the ground to reach more COVID affected households that have experienced loss.

Key activities will include the development of vulnerability screening and reporting tool and the training of Community Caregivers employed by the CBOs to deliver a grief support intervention to young people and their caregivers/parents who have experienced grief and loss over the last 12 months either due to COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and/ or TB. Through this intervention, HIVSA aims to target 20000 households.

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