The harsh reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, has affected the region that SCH is situated in, as well as the whole country. At the onset of the pandemic the denial by government and the health authorities placed us in a situation of discrimination and trauma. The greatest of which was unresolved grief where those who have lost loved ones were not able to even give the disease a name. On weekends one could see marquees and tents far out in the rural communities where people were burying their dead from illnesses such us, pneumonia, liver illness etc. more profound than that was the fear of the actual disease itself, and people who were HIV/AIDS positive were abandoned from their families and left alone to die without assistance, without counselling and without any treatment, compounded in this scenario was extreme poverty. A country and its people finding its feet and identity after years of segregation and apartheid. Violence and respect for life has meant very little. This has lead and continues to do so, to a secrecy concerning HIV/AIDS; which ignores the necessity for grief and bereavement through the death of loved ones.
Now that ARV’s are available to all and Primary Health Care facilities and government has adopted a national policy on HIV/AIDS, the 90-90-90 strategy; a great focus has been placed on people living with HIV to know their HIV status, people who know their HIV-positive status is accessing treatment and people on treatment have suppressed viral loads, however no focus has been placed on grief and bereavement for previous losses, which has proven to be a barrier to adherence, has resulted in unresolved anger and this has encouraged dangerous lifestyles. Most at risk populations children and youth, experience high levels of physical and emotional abuse, where young girl children are raped in the ‘belief’ that this act will cure HIV in older men. Through tradition a male dominated society has little regard for the rights of women, especially those that are impoverished and are reliant on their male partners. In the case of lesbians many are raped by hetero sexual men, who feel that by brute force they can change their sexual orientation. Young gay men in rural settings exist in the fear of their lives.
By conducting grief and bereavement workshops gives us an opportunity to shine a light on many losses and unresolved grief in these communities. (Di Van Dyk – 2016)
SCH recognizes unresolved grief and loss through HIV/AIDS and conducts group work sessions, through the compilation of Memory Books and Memory Boxes to assist those grieving to tell their story. This is a therapy on its own but is also a legacy that can be shared with children and other community members. These methods can also be used to help people disclose to their significant others and children. HIV/AIDS and Grief: Implications for Practice - Nancy Peters (2013).
HIV/AIDS has had and is continuing to have devastating effect on South African families, who have experienced multiple losses as communities break down under the strain of this pandemic. Our psychosocial well-being is being compromised and since this is essential for our survival, there is an urgent need for interventions in grief and bereavement counselling, which allow us to acknowledge our losses and work towards healing the nation.
Memory Box Workshops for children - The children who participate in the South Coast Hospice for Psychosocial Care Memory Box Workshops are referred by schools, hospitals, clinics, our Rural Home Care teams, and the community. Children are invited to participate in a 5-day workshop under the supervision of a Counselling Psychologist, two Social Workers and two Caregivers. Special emphasis is placed on memory work, with modules dealing with family stories and family trees, and memory boxes which the children can decorate. The stories of their deceased parents, photographs, important life documents, as well as various precious objects and tangible treasures pertaining to their history are placed in their boxes. Our Memory Box workshop provides HIV-infected and affected children with life skills that will enhance their resilience and enable them to cope in the face of adversities. Memory Book Workshops for youth and adults - Memory books are the perfect way to remember a loved one who has died. They can hold some of the most precious memories and life stories of a special person in your life. The principles and the format are followed in accordance with the Memory box workshops.
To address the experiences of AIDS-related grief and bereavement in adolescents aged 15-24, through a general programme of support, (including the use of the well-regarded Memory Box approach), and a flexible, targeted approach to follow-up bereaved support.
1. To provide direct AIDS-related bereavement support to 180 individuals over a two year period.
2. To refer those who require specific support to the appropriate contacts, (e.g. to our existing network social
workers and, for LGBT individuals, our LGBT “champion” Dirk van Reenen).
3. To provide additional follow-up bereavement support to members of the LGBT community who require it, in order to
address the complex challenges this group often encounter.
4. To ensure that any support given is conducted in a safe and non-discriminatory environment, fostering resilience to
address instances of stigma and discrimination.
5. To ensure that appropriate support is given to address emergent issues regarding the health and wellbeing of
individuals who have been bereaved. This includes dedicated efforts to ensure ARV adherence where
The social workers who will be present during the workshops will identify participants who require further grief and bereavement counselling. This will be conducted either through family group sessions at home, individual counselling sessions and small support groups where sharing can take place.