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Regional themes > HIV/AIDS Last update: 2020-11-27  

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The challenge of mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in organisations:
Prowling lions and sleeping dogs


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A dog sitting by a warm place does not move despite warnings of approaching lion.
Malawian Proverb

Many civil society organisations throughout sub-Saharan Africa are being profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS. Just last week I was talking to a manager who had lost 6 of his 14 staff to AIDS. This has impacted on the organisation in several different ways: quality of work has slipped and other more indirect effects have cost this particular CSO $23,000 in the last year alone. In short, performance has plummeted, donors were becoming somewhat exasperated and staff morale had also suffered. The manager related: "My morale went to zero. When everyone was sick I said 'let's do this, let's do that' and … nothing. I felt very low ". Yet despite suffering for many years, this CSO is only just beginning to think through how it might respond to HIV/AIDS within the organisation. The rising direct and indirect costs of HIV makes mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in development organisations perhaps the biggest capacity building challenge facing most CSOs in sub-Saharan Africa today.

With approximately three million people in the region dying each year, the economic and social costs of HIV/AIDS are escalating. In many places this is slowing progress towards the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals and has led HIV/AIDS specialists to warn that: 'Development will become virtually impossible in an era of HIV/AIDS' (Barnett and Whiteside 2002). It has become common to talk of the need for HIV/AIDS mainstreaming, but this has been frequently interpreted as requiring only minor adjustments to programmes. But HIV/AIDS is also having a major impact internally on the organisation, as CSO staff themselves become both infected or are indirectly affected. Rising medical, funeral and pension costs combined with the loss of staff and management time due to sickness, care of the ill and funerals means that most CSOs are struggling with problems of increasing overheads in addition to declining performance.

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