In front of a cup of tea and some biscuits, eleven people from Zimbabwe, Burundi and DRC, mostly mothers and pregnant women, have the chance to share their stories and knowledge and discuss embarrassing topics in a warm space where they feel welcomed. The restricted number of participants in the Scalabrini HIV+ Support Group allows our counselors to follow up constantly on all of the members and to create strong trust both among group members and between counselors and clients. The same group attends weekly acupuncture and massage sessions in our Health Clinic, and receives weekly fresh fruit and vegetables. A correct diet and healthy lifestyle are in fact necessary to support anti retroviral treatments.
The Scalabrini Support Group was born with the specific objective of providing support for HIV positive individuals and helping them to regain a sense of dignity and pride. The main aim is the creation of a platform where people can share knowledge and problems with the constant help of professional counselors. In many cases people discover they are HIV positive through our VCT Programme (Volunteer Counseling and Testing). Learning that one is HIV positive means one’s life will never be the same. Many feel shock, denial, confusion, and perceive themselves as different, and many are victims of isolation and discrimination. Counselors provide pre-test counseling, post-test counseling, and lead a weekly support group for clients in order to work through the complex emotional issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Five months ago, by the intuition of one of our counselors, the support group opened to an income-generating project. The beading project gives HIV infected clients an opportunity to be trained in beading and to subsequently generate income to support their families and regain a sense of dignity and pride. After the weekly meeting with the group, the Scalabrini Centre provides participants with the raw materials (beads, shapes, flexible wire and rings) needed to produce key rings according to the ancient South African tradition of beading work. Clients were first trained by the counselors, and now members of the group produce around 20 key rings a week at their own homes. 100% of the purchase price of the products goes directly to them.