Swaziland leaders visit OKC to address AIDS Crisis in Africa

A delegation of eight leaders from Swaziland, Africa, will be in Oklahoma City May 23 - 27, meeting with leaders from Southern Nazarene University (SNU) and Bethany First Church of the Nazarene (BFC), addressing the AIDS Crisis in Swaziland. The meetings will open with a 6:00 PM outdoor BBQ dinner Friday, May 23.

In recent months, these three entities have formed a partnership that will work with existing components such as the Swaziland Government, Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital and seventeen connected rural clinics to provide care and education to reduce the spread of AIDS in this small country adjacent to South Africa.

The Swaziland Delegation is comprised of the following members of Swaziland: Dr. Raymond Bitchong (RFM Hospital), Ms. Prue Coakley (RFM Hospital), Mr. Leonard Dlamini (RFM Hospital), Mr. Sikelela Dlamini (Ministry of Health), Mrs. Futhi Mdluli (RFM Hospital), Rev. Cosmos Mutowa (Helping Hands Africa & Field Director Compassionate Ministries), Dr. Winnie Nhlengethwa (Nursing College), and Rev. Cariot Shongwe (National Board).

The Kingdom of Swaziland faces a pandemic of frightening and overwhelming proportions. It will take all the country's resources and all available public and private sector resources, domestic and international, to turn the tide before a generation is lost.

"HIV infection in the country was identified for the first time in 1986 and the first AIDS case in 1987. Since that time, the number of persons living with HIV and AIDS has increased rapidly throughout the population. Data from the National HIV Sentinel Surveys of women attending antenatal clinics are currently used to provide estimates of HIV prevalence and trends. These surveys indicate that while in 1992 only 3.9% of pregnant women tested HIV positive, by 2006 this number had increased ten-fold to 39.2% (9th Round of National HIV Sero-surveillance, 2006). The current HIV prevalence level is considered to be the highest in the world,” according to UNAIDS, 2004.

As of 2005 the number of AIDS orphans in Swaziland is estimated at 63,000 out of a population of 1,032,000. According to the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), "this number is projected to increase to 120,000 by 2010." Based on these estimates, approximately 100,000 AIDS orphans exist in Swaziland today. Combine that estimate with the recently released 2007 census update placing the actual population of Swaziland at 954,524, the rate of AIDS orphans in Swaziland as a percentage of the entire population is near 10%. The approximate number of 100,000 AIDS orphans can be extrapolated to give us a percentage of all children in Swaziland that makes up this population. Children 0-14 years constitute 40% of the entire Swazi population that means one in four children in Swaziland is an orphan as a result of AIDS.

The rapid increase in orphans, combined with the impact of HIV/AIDS on the life expectancy of adults in Swaziland means that the capacity for children to be absorbed into existing extended family structures is breaking down. Child-led households, abandoned and starving children, lack of access to education, housing, and nutrition are compounded by the inability of the family, the community, and the government to respond to such an overwhelming pandemic. SNU and BFC are partnering with Swaziland leaders to help become a part of the solution.

For more information about the Swaziland team leaders visit, contact Lewis McClain, Executive Pastor at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene at (405) 642 6902.