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Community-based organizations (CBOs) have always been at the heart of the response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. That’s why the Stephen Lewis Foundation decided, from its inception in 2003, to invest at community level where small grassroots groups were already adapting quickly and knowledgeably to an ever-changing landscape.

These groups take a holistic approach, because they understand that attention is required to the full range of economic, social, emotional and physical needs of the community.

For example, an organization may start with paying school fees for children, and then realize that they need to eat, at least once a day, or they won’t be able to concentrate on their studies and walk all the way to school. Soon, it becomes clear that these traumatized children also need grief counselling and so psycho-social support is introduced in age-appropriate ways.

At the same time, organizations begin to identify the central role of grandmothers who are caring for these youngsters. They too desperately need emotional support, parenting support, income-generating programmes and help with nutrition. All in all, it is a delicate and urgent web of deprivations and responses.

The Foundation has worked to create a model that is responsive and flexible, and reflects the needs and priorities of our community-based partners. We move with them as they grow, evolve and expand their programmatic and geographical reach.

Through regular field visits and frequent contact with programme staff in Africa, the Foundation is able to ensure that the resources we invest are being put to the best use possible. This includes resources for operating costs, salaries and stipends for home-based care workers, all of which are critical to ensuring that the day-to-day work can continue.

For further information on the critical work being done by community organizations to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa, please click here to visit the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s website.