Overseas Aid Commission supports St John’s HIV project in Zambia.

The Guernsey Overseas Aid & Development Commission has awarded a grant of £34,000 to support the ongoing work of St John in Zambia.The grant will allow the expansion of the successful mother and baby programme.

15% of women and 11% of men in Zambia live with HIV, however nearly half of them do not know their HIV status. As a result, only about 60 per cent of all HIV positive adolescents are on HIV treatment. One of the barriers to HIV testing is stigma and discrimination, especially for men.

Early and frequent antenatal care attendance, which has been encouraged through St John Zambia’s successful mother and baby programme, represents a significant opportunity to identify HIV positive women and their partners to better assist them.

The grant from the Overseas Aid & Development Commission of The States of Guernsey will enable St John Zambia to expand their existing motherhood health programme to include HIV related activities. Volunteers will be trained to support families and allow expectant and new parents to be tested in the privacy of their own homes. The scheme will also allow them to get treatment and in turn help prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

St John will also train volunteers in psychosocial support to become HIV Mentors. Mentors will ensure treatment enrolment and support for people living with HIV. None of these services are currently available in the project’s targeted sites.

Although the grant was submitted by the international arm of St John the application was supported by St John Ambulance Guernsey, which as a member of the worldwide Order of St John, has been helping improve the lives of islanders since the 1930s.

Mr Andrew Henton, Knight Commander of St John in the Bailiwick of Guernsey said: “We are very excited that our government not only appreciates the good work St John does in the Bailiwick, but in other parts of the world as well. The grant helps us to build a bridge between our own volunteers and the ones who are working for St John in Zambia. Volunteers are the backbone of St John, no matter where in the world they offer their services.”

Nikki Harrison, Chief Operating Officer of St John Ambulance Guernsey added: “St John aims to improve the lives of communities in many places. The support from the Overseas Aid Commission creates a link between our island community and the community in Zambia and reminds us that we are part of or the an international organisation working towards the service of humanity. In the coming months our Badgers and Cadets will have the chance to learn more about the valuable work of St John in Africa.”

Deputy Emilie Yerby, President of the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission said: “The Commission was delighted to be able to support St John’s work to provide healthcare and support for expectant and new parents in Zambia, which aims to help address mother and child mortality and HIV transmission in an appropriate, sensitive and effective way. The project is consistent with the Commission’s focus on meeting basic needs, through health care and other essential services, in order to transform the lives of some of the world’s poorest communities. We’re really pleased that St John is also supporting the project locally, as we recognise that these direct links between Guernsey and the communities we support are invaluable, and really bring this kind of international development work to life.”