SILENCE equals death. That is true for most people living with HIV and Aids. But others use power as a strategic weapon for their own survival and to slowly grind down unwanted elements.
When we took the initiative to help people living with HIV and Aids (PLWHA) to find meaningful employment through the Positive Professionals and Positively Masutsa project, we received a lot of support and encouragement from the public especially the expatriate community.
Unfortunately, the most important organisation for PLWHA, the the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and Aids (Lenepwha), always refused to allow us to become members in their network.
Their management prefers to hide behind a constitution which supposedly does not allow HIV-positive people who are seeking economic empowerment and independence within company structures to become active members in the national network for PLWHA.
They have now even gone as far as saying that they do not allow membership for any non-governmental organisation where we are members since the Lenepwha board had decided that they do not trust us to be able to represent the interests of other elected PLWHA.
Our good fortunes in the common fight against HIV and Aids ran out after the visionary and charismatic former chief executive officer of the National Aids Commission (NAC) Keketso Sefeane left.
Sefeane accommodated the formation of Positively Masutsa through the NAC’s technical support and some seed funding (M25 000) in 2008 on the basis that the company is managed and operated by HIV-positive professionals to strengthen the government’s commitment of the Greater Involvement and Empowerment of People with HIV and Aids (GIPA) principles.
It was envisaged that this first step should allow other institutions and companies to actively participate in the GIPA implementation by giving job opportunities to HIV-positive people instead of hand-outs.
If proven successful this concept should be duplicated by other HIV and Aids support groups and small and medium enterprises in the districts and put Lesotho on the international HIV and Aids map as leaders and front-runners in implementing the GIPA principles, which were adopted by over 150 heads of state at the UN General Assembly in 2001 and 2006.
After Sefeane’s departure we were told that all GIPA issues were now with Lenepwha and we should join the network and stop communicating directly with the NAC since they only communicate to implementing partners through associated networks.
This left us in a desperate and hugely frustrating vacuum since Lenepwha categorically denies us membership.
It seems to us that their organisation currently lacks the capacity to successfully implement the GIPA principles and they do not want to partner with others like us to assist them in this important task.
What can we do now?
Is there anybody who can advise us professionally of how to break the silence of the NAC towards us and to regain their support thus allowing us to get out of this vicious circle?
The appeal for breaking the silence is urgent since the refusal of the NAC to talk to us and their reluctance to show any kind of positive actions for Positively Masutsa prevents us from getting tangible support from some other HIV and Aids service organisations who depend on the NAC’s good will.
According to the the NAC, we are no longer an implementing partner, since we do not belong to an associated network and should be treated by the NAC like any other profit-making business.
The refusal by the NAC’s new administration to use Positively Masutsa Catering Services for any of their many events could be interpreted by us as subjective management.
The last time the NAC guided our efforts was when we tried to explore the establishment of a dating service for HIV-positive people in Lesotho in November last year and their response was that our approach looks like human trafficking.
We took their sensitive diplomatic advice very seriously and stopped the project immediately.