by Roger Drew and David Kabiswa.
Being part of a group can be extremely helpful, but it can also be a very challenging experience. Challenges often faced by groups of people with HIV include:
Getting organised Groups may start very informally but become more formal as time goes on. They will then need to register the group, develop a constitution etc.
Goals It is important to set out clear goals for a network at the beginning. Members must feel confident about the reason for networking.
Defining who can belong Groups may be open to all people with HIV or only for certain categories. It may be difficult for a group composed mainly of one type of person – for example, older women – to cater for the needs of other groups, such as working young men.
Leadership As the group grows, decisions will need to be made about who the leaders will be, how they will be chosen, what their roles will be and how they will be held accountable to the group.
Dealing with resources The group will need to develop ways of dealing with resources, including money which belongs to the group as a whole rather than to any particular individual.
Meeting expectations It may be difficult for the group to meet all the needs of its members. Sometimes the needs of individuals may not be known by the group as a whole.
Looking outside the group It is easy for a group to become preoccupied with the needs of existing members. This may mean that it becomes difficult for new members to join the group.
Activity Networks will only survive if they are active and useful. They will die if members no longer see them as helpful.