SWAN Helps Ethiopia Fact-Finding Mission

group of Ethiopian womenEthiopian women affected by HIV/AIDS benefit from skills training through vocational support groups like those provided by the Wegen Aden Ethiopia Association in Addis Ababa. Here, a group of women review the day’s sales ledger.

The reality of more and more people in Ethiopia living with HIV presents new opportunities and challenges for social workers in the East African country, says Evelyn Tomaszewski, NASW’s senior policy adviser on human rights and international affairs.

She told the NASW Newsthat improved access to antiretroviral medications and increased prevention messaging have had a profound effect on Ethiopia, where 2 percent of adults live with HIV.

Earlier this year, Tomaszewski went to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to assess social work capacity, specifically looking at Family Health International’s home- and community-based care programs. FHI provides technical assistance to a host of programs to support those affected by HIV and AIDS in Ethiopia. The programs rely on community caregivers, both paid and volunteer, to provide direct services.

The 10-day mission was led by Peg Matsen, a public health nurse from Delaware, on behalf of Physicians for Peace. Tomaszewski’s participation was made possible by NASW’s Social Work Across Nations, a program dedicated to assisting social workers in their efforts to meet international development issues and to form collaborative linkages with other countries.

They met with program volunteers, community workers, FHI program officers and clients of the home- and community-based care programs.

“Through site visits with FHI-Ethiopia programs, we identified current resources that focus on psychosocial issues of living with HIV and AIDS, including the care of orphans and vulnerable children,” Tomaszewski said. “We also assessed what needs could be met through current Physicians for Peace programs and how to incorporate more volunteers through SWAN.”

Tomaszewski said providers repeatedly stated a need for formalized training and education around psychosocial care and treatment that is family and community centered.

Evelyn TomaszewskiEvelyn Tomaszewski

“As HIV transitions in many African countries from what was a life-threatening disease to a chronic illness, the skills of community caregivers have needed to change also,” said Tomaszewski. “SWAN can help facilitate that change in collaboration with our social work colleagues in Ethiopia and the broader region.”

NASW’s domestic HIV/AIDS Spectrum Project curriculum is designed to do just that. It offers education and training to mental health care providers on the mental health aspects of living with HIV and AIDS, including depression and anxiety, abuse, trauma and gender equity; coping with stigma, discrimination, death and dying; and medication adherence.

“Throughout the training, special emphasis is given to the impact of HIV and AIDS, not only on the persons living with the disease, but also their family and the community, including reaching children and vulnerable youth,” Tomaszewski said.

With the fact-finding mission behind her, Tomaszewski said next steps are to make recommendations for training curriculum content that is culturally relevant to Ethiopia and to work with FHI and Physicians for Peace and Ethiopian caregivers to design content that can expand knowledge and skills in mental health care for persons living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Get more information in the NASW HIV/AIDS Spectrum Practice section and NASW’s human rights and international affairs activity.