Marking World AIDS Day, December 1, 2014
New HIV infections may be declining in Swaziland, the country hardest hit by the virus, but tens of thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children are in desperate need of help. A Bible-based program in the north of this tiny country is providing support to hundreds of them.
“It’s like there’s been a war here,” says Sphiwe Ngwenya, leader of the Bible Society in Swaziland. “We may not have heard the sound of gunfire but this silent war has wiped out a whole generation and left another generation orphaned, traumatised and vulnerable.”
The Bible Society has been running the Good Samaritan Program, a Bible-based HIV education program, for seven years – with good results. It has contributed to the reduction of new infections in the country and has played a key role in changing people’s attitudes towards those with the virus.
World’s highest HIV prevalence rate
But as well as continuing to have the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate – 27% of its adult population is infected – Swaziland is waking up to the terrible legacy that AIDS has bequeathed to its children. More than 120,000 – that’s nearly a quarter of the country’s children – have been orphaned by AIDS, and around 17,000 of them are HIV-positive.
Many of these grief-stricken children are fending for themselves, struggling to feed themselves or access medical help. Lacking parental protection, they also face violence and sexual abuse.
“These children need practical, emotional and spiritual support,” notes Mrs Ngwenya. “That’s why we’ve started working with churches, teachers and community leaders in the Kuhlahla area, training and equipping them to reach out and help these vulnerable children.”
As well as offering the children practical help, such as teaching them to grow their own food and ensuring they have medical help, the Bible Society and its partners are also using Bible-based trauma counselling to help the children deal with the pain they have experienced.
“Pain should not be kept hidden in the heart because the heart will break,” comments Mrs Ngwenya. “During these counselling sessions, we help the children talk about their grief and share Bible stories that show God’s unchanging love for them. That brings them great comfort.”
Please pray for this work. If you’d like to support it, please get in contact with the Bible Society in your country.
(All photographs © Adam Garff/Danish Bible Society)