March1With ward counselors as chairpersons, Ward AIDS Council (WACs) are expected to deal with HIV-related issues. These structures report to Local AIDS Councils. Each WAC, which is made up of representatives of different sectors, and must also have operational plans.

Introduced as part of South Africa’s latest National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB, WACs will also be responsible for helping collect ward-level data on HIV that will help inform not only provincial councils, but also the South African National AIDS Council chaired by the deputy president.

“The WACs will help us understand the challenges that people affected and infected with HIV have,” Ward Councilor Isaac Sibiya said. “It will assist the municipality to better respond to the HIV pandemic.”

The South African non-profit organisation the Sexual HIV Prevention Programme (SHIPP) will be helping train WACs on their roles and responsibilities. According to SHIPP technical officer Thandi Maluka, the organisation will also be helping WACs develop strategic plans and regular reports.

Ward Councillor Amos Mabasa added that WACs are just one way Msukaligwa Municipality is looking to tackle HIV.

“The municipality is doing everything to decrease prevalence of HIV in the municipal area,” he told OurHealth. “WACs will help to empower community members.”

At about 15 percent, Mpumalanga’s HIV prevalence rate is the second highest in the country after that of KwaZulu-Natal, according to the 2008 South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communications Survey.