Onjengami Project

In 2009 the Belgian government awarded a substantial grant to the Sinomlando Centre and its long time partner the Thandanani Children's Foundation for a project entitled "Improving access to holistic care and psychosocial support for HIV positive children on ARV treatment, other OVCs and their families".

Known as "Onjengami Project", this new project has a duration of two years (February 2010 - January 2012).In isiZulu onjengami means "(who is) like me". It refers to the feelings of HIV positive children who wonder whether there are other children who share their experience. A qualified community nurse, Anni Tonin, manages the activities the Onjengami Project. During the 2-year project Sinomlando established partnerships with 6 public hospitals and clinics as well with Department of Social Developments sites and many NGOs needing help with the emotional care of HIV-infected children. Activities included 25 awareness workshops for primary caregivers, 13 awareness workshops for hospital staff; 13 children's support groups; 26 primary caregivers' support groups; 15 teenager camps. In total 147 children, 259 teenagers and 363 primary caregivers benefited from these activities. The project was also able to do post-CBP training in 'onjengami' work with memory workers from several partners in KZN and the Eastern Cape during groups and camps.

During camps and group sessions, the children reported feeling "so free": they could relax their constant anxiety to hide their ARVs from friends and family and enjoy a stigma-free environment, while still being able to maintain good adherence. The children particularly valued the chance to talk about their experiences and treatment, and they facilitated contact with other children who were HIV positive. Many had thought that they were the only children or teenagers who were infected!

In November 2011 Anni Tonin and Sibonelo Ngubane presented a paper on "Exploring the impact of memory work-based psychosocial support, and implications for adherence on children on HAART and their carers" at the Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance (SAHARA) conference in Port Elizabeth. In 2012, a grant from the Positive Action for Children Fund (PACF) has enabled Sinomlando to work closely with local health providers to integrate the 'Onjengami' approach into HAART clinic services to teenagers.

In October 2013 a new initiative called the “youth-led peer support programme” was launched with a view to developing leadership skills in HIV positive teenagers on antiretroviral treatment. A group of twelve HIV positive teenagers on antiretroviral treatment received training. Since then they assist in the Sinomlando memory facilitators during camps and engage with their peers in the clinics they attend for their own treatment.