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ABCG equips conservation organizations to support staff, partners, and local communities affected by HIV and AIDS

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, millions of adults and children are living with HIV. The disease affects everyone and can have a devastating effect on families, economies, communities, and the environment. Since 2001, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) has been working with partners in Eastern and Southern Africa to learn about the environmental impacts brought on by HIV and AIDS and to identify and catalyze coping strategies for the conservation sector to reduce these impacts.

This year's World AIDS Day theme is Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation, which serves as a reminder about the contributions that all sectors can continue to make in overcoming this devastating disease. ABCG's work on HIV and AIDS aims to raise awareness of the linkages between HIV and AIDS and the environment, and provide guidance to conservation organizations on actions they can take to reduce the impacts on their organizations, their partners and local communities, and the environment. 

HIV/AIDS Training Workshop Speaker

Effects of HIV and AIDS on the Environment and Conservation Institutions

Impacts on the environment are mainly through loss of conservation capacity and changes in use of land and natural resources. All sectors are affected by AIDS, but the conservation sector is particularly vulnerable because conservation staff are often posted to remote areas without their families, where they may be more susceptible to contracting and/or spreading the disease. Certain natural resource extractors are at higher risk due to the nature of their work, for example fishermen and timber loggers, who may rely on transactional sex to secure resources for income generation. In addition, AIDS affects the way that people use land and natural resources, often leading to damaging and unsustainable practices such as the illegal over-hunting of wildlife for the bushmeat trade.

To address these impacts, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group developed a manual on HIV/AIDS and the Environment: A Manual for Conservation Organizations on Impacts and Responses. The manual provides background information on the origin of HIV, the nature of AIDS and the AIDS epidemic. It outlines the links between the disease and the environment, both on conservation capacity and on use of land and natural resources, showing how gender and poverty have a strong influence through a series of complex linkages. It then describes actions that can be taken to reduce impacts, to help maintain conservation capacity in organizations and local communities; to reduce unsustainable practices as a result of AIDS; and support AIDS-affected communities through alternative livelihoods based on sustainable natural resource use or other low-labor-intensive approaches. Finally, it outlines further needs for learning, collaboration and scaling up. It draws heavily on the work of several conservation organizations and programs working in this field, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, and illustrates a wide variety of experiences. 

Training

In November 2013, ABCG and its member the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) held a training workshop on Equipping Conservation Groups to Mitigate HIV and AIDS in the Workplace in Kigoma, Tanzania. The workshop brought together 34 people from conservation NGOs, local government, national parks, and partner NGOs to review the impacts of HIV and AIDS on the environment, conservation staff, and local communities and to better equip these groups to develop workplace policies and programs to mitigate the impacts of HIV and AIDS. Organization of the workshop was led by Mary Mavanza of JGI-Tanzania and consultant Daulos Mauambeta. Mr. Mauambeta has long been an advocate for empowering conservation organizations to better address these issues; we were very pleased to have him serve as the workshop facilitator and trainer. Mr. Mauambeta shared many examples of how HIV and AIDS had negatively impacted conservation efforts, including a decline of wildlife populations in a Malawian protected area following infection of a large number of protected area staff, who were then unable to perform their duties.

Topics included:

  • Background on HIV/AIDS and global trends
  • Why the conservation community is vulnerable to HIV and AIDS
  • Linkages between conservation and HIV and AIDS
  • Mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in conservation programs
  • Developing an HIV and AIDS workplace policy

 HIV/AIDS Training Workshop Breakout

Pastory Magingi of ABCG member African Wildlife Foundation shared principles from the HIV and AIDS workplace policy that AWF adopted in 2004 to provide staff and families with information and resources on prevention and care. Key components of their policy include assurance of confidentiality, job security and employee benefits, provision of voluntary counseling and testing services, educational programs, treatment services, condom distribution, and medical services. Participants in the workshop were strongly encouraged to work with their organizations to encourage development of workplace policies and programs.

At the close of the workshop, each participant was asked to write their individual commitments to take action for mitigating the impacts of HIV and AIDS in their organizations and in their own lives. These commitments include:

  • Help in the formulation of an HIV/AIDS policy at my work place and supporting staff members to know their HIV status and get help where necessary
  • Request date for meeting with other staff to advice how HIV/AIDS may spread in our workplace and to the nearby villagers
  • By the end of the year, get myself tested for HIV
  • Introduce an HIV/AIDS program in my environmental education program
  • I will not stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS and I will sensitize others to do the same

 Staff from the Jane Goodall Institute continued their work an additional day, during which they drafted an internal workplace policy on HIV and AIDS. This policy is now being refined and will be reviewed by all JGI country offices before it is finalized.


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