Why Focus on Grassroots and Community Response?
The total number of people living with HIV/AIDS was 34 million in 2011, up from 8 million in 1990. Despite increased attention on the disease in developing countries and access to anti-retroviral treatment, the AIDS epidemic is outpacing global efforts to contain it. We cannot institutionalize our way out of this problem. Globally, we cannot build enough hospitals to care for the all those infected nor orphanages for the children left behind.
So what is the answer? Africa has traditionally had family and community structures that care for the sick, orphaned, and elderly. These structures have crumbled under the weight of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
As our experiences in Africa and Asia have shown us, where communities are strengthened through love, inclusion, and collective action, there are real solutions. This is not to minimize or eliminate the roles of local governments and outside resources, but to be aware that the key to a long-term solution lies in the local communities and in the hands of the residents.
"An important lesson learnt over the past decade is that national HIV/AIDS responses cannot reach the necessary scale through centrally operated programs," the UN Economic Commission for Africa briefing paper said. "A decentralized, participatory approach with the involvement of all sectors leads to wider coverage, especially of people at the 'grassroots'." (UNECA 2000).
Power of Love programs help communities from within. We help communities build sustainable responses to the AIDS epidemic and stand shoulder to shoulder as equal partners. We however never lose sight of our core belief: that the people of Africa have the wisdom and skill to beat back the AIDS epidemic, and that our role is to be their partner.