AIDS 2016 – integration for HIV and WASH

Posted 3 Aug 2016 by Sakhile Khaweka

The AIDS 2016 Conference in Durban, South Africa, was an important chance to promote integration of HIV and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes. Sakhile Khaweka, WaterAid’s Regional Support Officer for Southern Africa, introduces WaterAid and SAfAIDS’ field guide for integration, and looks at how WaterAid can continue to advocate for the importance of WASH in a busy HIV sector.

A vibrant and buzzing atmosphere filled the convention centre in Durban, South Africa, as African and international organisations, INGOs, HIV activists, pharmaceutical companies, celebrities, politicians, sex workers, and gay rights activists gathered together for July’s AIDS 2016 Conference. Many came with different agendas to be heard in the numerous sessions planned for the week.

Nurse Elenura tests a child for HIV and malaria at a paediatric clinic in Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania.
Experienced Nurse Elenura tests a child for HIV and malaria at a paediatric clinic in Dar es Salaam City, Tanzania.

AIDS 2016 was a useful platform for raising awareness around the critical links between WASH and HIV prevention, treatment, and care and support responses. WaterAid and SAfAIDS advocated for HIV to existing networks and partners, which focused organisations on considering WASH issues when designing HIV-related programmes and policies within their constituencies. The current buzzwords in the sector are ‘prevention’ and ‘treatment’, and we wanted to highlight the importance of WASH in both of these.

Integrating WASH and HIV programmes

With pharmaceutical giants competing for centre stage in showcasing their latest treatment drugs, and gay rights activists and sex workers stealing the show with parades and demonstrations demanding recognition and decriminalisation, how does one draw attention to the relevance of the WASH agenda to the HIV sector?

In addition to housing a WaterAid and SAfAIDS side-event workshop, which served as a platform for discussions around how to take WASH and HIV integration forward, the conference provided an opportunity for WaterAid, in collaboration with SAfAIDS, to launch a bi-directional field guide for integrating WASH and HIV programmes in Southern Africa. This guide contributes to WaterAid’s commitment to promoting equity and inclusion, and aims to ensure that underserved and marginalised sections of society are included in efforts to reach everyone with WASH services.

The overall goal of the field guide is to promote access to and control of WASH resources by people living with HIV, and equal access by women, men, girls, and boys. The aim is to achieve this through application of a set of minimum standards for integrating HIV into WASH programme and policy design, implementation, tracking, evaluation and reporting, rolled out by WaterAid in southern Africa.

HIV and WASH in southern Africa

Some 70% of all people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa – about 25.8 million people. Nine of Southern Africa’s ten countries have the highest HIV prevalence rates worldwide. Clean water is crucial to keeping them healthy, for taking antiretroviral drugs, and for the good hygiene required to minimise the risk of infections.

Yet 32% of people in the region live without access to clean water, and 70% do not have basic sanitation, leaving many people living with HIV suffering from chronic diarrhoea and unable to care for themselves or their families.

Diarrhoea compromises the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs by reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and medicine. Some 90% of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from diarrhoea, and 88% of these cases are linked to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

During the side event hosted by WaterAid and SAfAIDS, a handful of participants joined in the roundtable discussions on taking forward integration of WASH into the HIV agenda. One of the concerns raised during the discussion was that WASH interventions that directly target households including people living with HIV can create stigma, and that pushing for WASH and HIV-integrated programmes without buy-in and ownership of people living with HIV would be futile.

The way forward – integrating WASH and HIV programmes

Over and above disseminating our bi-directional guide, we need to generate more evidence on which to base advocacy for WASH and HIV integration, to inform policy and build a case for integration of WASH and HIV programmes. This evidence needs to be around topics including:

  • Building the capacity of and empowering people living with HIV to demand their rights to WASH 
  • Getting buy-in of people living with HIV 
  • Creating synergies, and coordination from different players and sectors to secure joint funding and integrated programmes
  • Documenting working models that can be used by other stakeholders 
  • Conducting strategic advocacy with relevant stakeholders 
  • Focusing on water resource management 
  • Making greater use of the opportunity provided by the growing focus on nutrition 
  • Engaging ICASA (the International Conference for AIDS and STIs in Africa) and other regional and international conferences to include WASH in their agenda

WaterAid will continue to promote and advocate the vital role of safe WASH in HIV prevention and treatment in our work in southern Africa. We can leverage our presence in Lesotho and Swaziland, which are among the countries with the highest HIV prevalence. The global focus and attention on these two countries in terms of funding, treatment and prevention provides opportunities to give prominence to the role of water and sanitation in these processes.

Despite prevention, treatment and research being the stated priorities of HIV practitioners, WaterAid can contribute to building a strong case for greater investment and attention to the WASH and HIV nexus by further engaging HIV partners, especially people living with HIV and health workers.

Leadership too has an important role in the development of evidence and advocacy to achieve the necessary buy-in from the HIV sector and other health actors to gain focus on WASH. Leadership can ensure commitment of resources and effort in promoting the WASH agenda in the HIV sector.

Ultimately, the integration of WASH and HIV programmes is about meeting the needs of people living with HIV. If they are unable to participate in planning, decision making and implementation, consideration of their specific water and sanitation needs will be limited, and we will have missed the point.

Sakhile Khaweka is WaterAid’s Regional Support Officer for Southern Africa. She tweets as @sakhilek


Add your comment


  • kelvin johnbal said:

    18 Jun 2017 12:03

    I want to let the world know about Dr uyiosa herbal cure is 100% Guarantee percent sure to cure your. HIV/AIDS ,He is only person that i can boldly say he can cure any types of Disease.i was having HIV for more than 8 year when i meant Dr uyiosa online on how he has cured so many people and how greatly he has helped many individuals online,so i contacted him and explained my situation to him and behold i was cure with his herbal medicine and now am living happily, so to anyone issue on hiv/aids challenges i advised that you contact [email protected] he can also cure any disease such as(1) HIV/AIDS(2) HEPATITIS B,(3)DIABETICS,(4)CANCER,(5)HERPES(6)He can also bring back your ex back,He is the great herbalist man called Dr.uyiosa i must say a big thanks for curing my HIV/AIDS, i own you in return. Thanks and be blessed sir.his Mobile number+2349056708611

  • Peggy Albert said:

    23 Jun 2017 5:11

    Hello viewers my name is Peggy Albert from Australia ... i am writing this article to thank the great Sabu for his tremendous work done for me through his herbal medicine,Six years back me and my Husband was diagnosed of HIV/AIDS Virus,but everything was turnaround when i came to know Dr Sabu me and my husband health was restored back to itself like a free born baby,i saw people testifying on how Dr Sabu has cure their HIV Virus on the internet so i decided and i contact his email: [email protected] i told him exactly how my body and my husband was paining me each and single day,he told me not to be skeptical anymore,that me and my husband must be cured totally once when we start using his herbal medicine, HEPATITIS B, CANCER. just contact Dr Sabu on his cell whatsapp number+254729840796 or via email [email protected]

  • faith sandra22 said:

    23 Jun 2017 22:21

    Dr.Ogumen has made me to believe that one can still rise after fall .Dr.Ogumen made it possible to bring back my ex husband after 3years of separation and now me and my lost husband are now happily together all because of the powerful love spell Dr.Ogumen cast for me. Dr.Ogumen is a well recordnised love spell caster all over the world. He is very important in the society because he has the power to restore broken relationship and bring back ex lover all within the space of 3days. If you need his help you can reach he on his email : ([email protected]) call or whatsapp with this number (+2348135790702)

WaterAid is not responsible for the content of any comments posted here and we do not edit comments. There may be a short delay before your comment appears on the blog post. 

We reserve the right to remove posts we believe contain inappropriate material. For further details, see our community guidelines. To report a comment, please email [email protected].