Foundation Femme Plus
September 18, 2004, —
In a recent interview with Madame Bernadette Mulembe, National Director of Fondation Femme Plus (FFP), she spoke of the origins of the organization, her motivations for getting involved in the battle against HIV and AIDS, and the relationship between FFP and Catholic Relief Services:
"In 1994, when FFP was created, AIDS was not yet the famous imaginary syndrome to Discourage those in Love. It has now come to be known as a disease representing death and desolation in our communities.
The number of people affected by AIDS is growing before our very eyes in our hospitals. The dead multiply, the number of widows, widowers and orphans is ever increasing. Faced with this reality, we the initiators of Fondation Femme Plus, became more and more grievous. Not only is AIDS
wrenching at communities, their families and loved ones, but it has led to the destruction of that which was always a strong and stable value for Africans, solidarity.
The widows and the orphans are no longer objects of attentiveness as in the past. They are now seen as the heritage left by a late spouse or father who kindled desire. It was a consequence of this growing attitude that the initiators of FFP — people living with HIV, as well as those not affected, and spouses and parents of victims of AIDS — developed the idea to establish an organization to assist both women and families affected by HIV and AIDS.
We believe that CRS is a solid partner and is committed to the development of a true partnership based on mutual respect. CRS' concern for the training of her partners is a good attribute for a young organization such as ours. I believe FFP will gain tremendously from working with CRS."
HIV and AIDS Impact Mitigation in Kinshasa to Mitigating the Impact of HIV and AIDS in Kinshasa
The prolonged socioeconomic crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, intensified by two recent wars (1996 and 1998), has led to the virtual abandonment of the country's health sector. Consequently, HIV and AIDS education in schools, public awareness-raising, and care-giving (both psychosocial and medical) have been severely neglected.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over one million people are estimated to be infected with HIV, and where life expectancy dropped by an estimated 9 percent during the 1990s, it is critical to assist those affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as to help slow the propagation of the disease.
Through home care and psychosocial support, anti-stigma campaigns, behavior change, and education, FFP seeks to "protect the human dignity of people living with HIV and to raise the awareness of those at risk of infection in Kinshasa."
In August 2001, with the financial support of CRS, FFP began the project "HIV and AIDS Impact Mitigation" in Kinshasa with two main objectives:
- Increase access to information, counseling, psychosocial assistance, and home care for up to 3,000 people living with HIV and their families in two districts in Kinshasa.
- Raise awareness among 6,000 students, their parents and teachers in 10 schools in the Funa district in Kinshasa about the dangers of HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
In addition, FFP also organizes:
- Home visits and surveys
- Home-based counseling for people living with HIV
- Psychological support group meetings
- Medical assistance (lab tests, basic treatment, help with hospitalization fees, referrals etc.)
- Psychosocial counseling
- Welfare assistance (funeral costs)
- Legal aid (inheritance issues)
In terms of preventive activities, FFP has organized training and awareness-raising sessions throughout Kinshasa. FFP has produced a film entitled "Vie Positive" that tells the story of adults living with HIV in Kinshasa, and has published an informational brochure entitled "AIDS Today", which was distributed to thousands of Kinshasa residents.
FFP has also distributed other publications and has posted informational banners and posters throughout the city. Leaders of FFP have frequently appeared on television and radio broadcasts, and have helped train AIDS organizations in several other cities, including Bukavu, Kindu, Bumba and Kikwit.