The Masambo Fund: helping the carers

Published: 23 November 2009 0:00 CET

Jean-Luc Martinage, IFRC in Panama City

The Masambo Fund was created by the IFRC to provide access to life-saving drugs - including anti retroviral treatment – to Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers who are living with HIV. Because the Red Cross Red Crescent operates in every part of the world, the level of health coverage varies from one country to another so there is a need to support those staff and volunteers living with HIV who cannot afford access to treatment and care.

The fund is financed through a voluntary contribution from all Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. It was named after the late Masambo Mundega, a long-serving Zimbabwe Red Cross staff member working with people living with HIV.

“Thanks to the Masambo Fund, I can walk again”

Miguel-Angel Ariza is one of the volunteers supported by the Masambo Fund. Now aged 51, he has been a volunteer for the Panamanean Red Cross since 1998. Miguel Angel is openly living with HIV. Despite the stigma and discrimination he still encounters, he decided to go public on his status “to avoid gossips and rumour”. Getting involved with the HIV programme of the Red Cross was a good way for him to challenge stigma and also share his experience with the youth, passing on prevention messages.

However, this year, Miguel-Angel’s health deteriorated. “I became very sick. I could no longer walk and had to stay at the hospital”, he recalls. One of the reasons his health deteriorated was that he only had access to basic treatment.

By chance, he had applied for the support of the Masambo Fund a few months before. Thanks to the grant he received, he was able to afford more sophisticated private therapy. Since then, Miguel Angel has made good progress on the road to recovery.

When asked what the Masambo Fund brought him, he simply answers “Thanks to the Masambo Fund, I can walk again”. Now he wants to get back to normal life and get involved again with the Panamanean Red Cross HIV programme.

Going back to work

“I never thought I would benefit from a fund I myself advocated for when it was created,” he adds with a smile.

Meanwhile, he is still providing an active support to the Red Cross Red Crescent. A graphic designer by profession, he was asked to create all the art work for the Spanish version of the IFRC HIV volunteer toolkit. Now he wants to go on working with youths, sharing his experience and passing on prevention messages so that they do not become infected.