Mainstreaming, integrating: after 20 years of the epidemic, we are still debating as to what is actually meant by these words within the context of HIV and development. We know so much about the macro impact as well as impact on the individual, household and community, yet we still struggle to know how best to mainstream it meaningfully into our work.
A satellite session hosted by Oxfam International was a positive attempt to put the issue on the agenda and encourage discussion and debate about what is happening, in terms of internal organisational policies and supporting partner organisations.
A presentation from Oxfam Malawi on rural livelihoods emphasised the need to modify rather than completely overhaul programmes. Subtle but significant modifications in project design included choosing animals and agricultural practices that were less labour-intensive and that provided quicker returns.
Another example, also from Oxfam International, was the issue of AIDS in the workplace. Taking a proactive and anticipatory stance, their institutional audit highlighted the need for a holistic approach including the following components: awareness and education, management of ill health, care and support.
The medium to long-term impacts are clearly on staff turnover and skills development, both having significant impact on financial planning and management. Organisations will incur more costs on staff recruitment and training as well as medical care.
How well are most organizations equipped to manage these changes within their human and financial capital?
A positive outcome of the session was that a number of other organisations (Action AIDS, VSO, DFID) shared information about how they were addressing the same issues and challenges.
The same unfortunately could not be said about the response from the UNAIDS representative. An anecdotal account that was more fitting for a dinner conversation inspired little confidence to those of us who continue to weave our way around and out of this mainstreaming maze.
AIDS 2002 Conference News produced by Health & Development Networks/Key Correspondent Team