How to set up coordinating structures

Good coordination is the key to dealing with HIV and AIDS. In this guide, we look at ways of organising Local AIDS Councils. This guide contains the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Local AIDS Councils

- Coordination and Task teams
- Strategy and action plan

  1. Provincial AIDS Councils
  2. District AIDS Councils

  1. Introduction

No organisation or project can tackle HIV and AIDS alone.  At national, provincial and district level the government has set up AIDS councils to bring together government services, NGOs and community organisations. At a local level, we need good coordination so that we can work together and properly use scarce resources.

Local projects on HIV and AIDS can be divided into the three main areas of work we have dealt with in this manual:

  • Education and prevention
  • Care, support and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS
  • Care for children affected by HIV and AIDS

Many organisations, services and projects can play a role to do work in each of these areas. It is very important that they should all work together to make sure we prevent the further spreading of the disease and that people and families affected by HIV and AIDS get the support they need.

There are different ways of coordinating local efforts. You can set up an AIDS Forum or coordinating committee and involve all the different stakeholders. If the local municipality is committed to dealing with HIV and AIDS, a Local AIDS Council is a good way of coordinating work between government and civil society.

If the municipality is not able or not willing to commit people and resources to coordination of HIV and AIDS structures, try to get one of the stronger stakeholders to play that role.

  1. Local AIDS Councils

In many parts of South Africa, municipalities are trying to set up Local AIDS Councils. The aim of the LAC is to develop a coherent strategy and  action plan to deal with HIV and AIDS in the area. It should coordinate local efforts to ensure that services are properly delivered and to monitor effectiveness.

The LAC should have a clear link to government so that all government services and departments can be easily accessed. As the form of government closest to people, municipalities are well placed to initiate setting up of a LAC. All relevant government departments should also be drawn in – for example Welfare (Social Development) Health, Education and Home Affairs. Any welfare organisations and community projects that work on prevention, education or care projects should be involved. A Local AIDS Council should link with all local organisations, religious organisations, schools and businesses.

Coordination and task teams

We suggest that the LAC works as a coordinating structure and that the work happens in task teams around specific areas of work. The LAC can include everyone and be a broad forum that does not need to meet often. A smaller coordinating committee should be set up to do day to day coordination. This committee should consist of the task team heads, key government or welfare workers and one or two senior staff and politicians from the municipality.

It is important to first bring together those organisations and services that are already doing something and involve them in task teams that focus on the three areas of work.  Municipalities should try to bring together every organisation and service that can help in any way. The municipality should play a facilitating role and not try to take over the good work that others are already doing.

Structures should not be too bureaucratic and should be designed to coordinate specific areas of work, bring resources together, promote communication and information sharing and mobilise broader involvement.

It should not be seen as a structure that will “control” AIDS work in the area. It should aim to make sure that the most affected areas and individuals in the municipality are effectively serviced. The LAC must ensure that available resources are used as efficiently as possible. Ongoing monitoring and assessment should be part of its work.

The municipality should play a leading role in coordination and using its resources to facilitate meetings and administration of the structure. It may be good to put the coordinating structure under the authority of the mayor to give it political influence and status.  It is vital that any coordinating structure does not become a gate keeping structure that stops organisations from getting involved. AIDS affects everyone.  It should not be dealt with in a way that excludes anyone.

It is important to set up task teams that work together on specific projects – for example care for people with HIV and AIDS or public education. People who are directly involved in these areas should play a leading role in these teams.

You should have at least the following three task teams with these members:

  1. Prevention and education

All education projects, health workers, school life skills project, councillors, community organisations, youth leaders and trade unions. 

  1. Care, support and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS

Health workers, social workers, people living with HIV and AIDS, religious organisations, welfare organisations, and community projects working on care.

  1. Care for children affected by HIV and AIDS

Social workers, Child Welfare Society, school principals, religious organisations, community projects providing care for children.

The municipality should play these roles:

  • Coordination: Bring together stakeholders to develop strategy and coordinate implementation of projects.
  • Facilitation: Assist projects from civil society to get access to resources and other government services and funding. Make council facilities available and use municipal communications facilities like newsletters and notice boards. Use clinics and public toilets for condom distribution.
  • Planning: Ensure that the impact and consequences of AIDS are taken into account in the long term planning around the municipal IDP (Integrated Development Plan). Develop clear poverty alleviation and indigent policies and target child-headed families and families that have lost breadwinners.
  • Leadership: Mayors and ward councillors should be role models for the community and provide moral leadership in dealing with AIDS and supporting people who are affected by AIDS.

Strategy and action plan

Before the LAC can start working, it should develop a clear strategy for dealing with AIDS. The process used to develop a strategy should have the following components:

  1. Understanding the terrain
  2. Drawing in stakeholders
  3. Analysing incidence, impact, available resources and key interventions needed
  4. Deciding priorities and activities
  5. Getting support of leaders and the community

Each task teams should then work out action plans with clear budgets and timeframes so that they can implement the strategy.

  1. Understanding the terrain

Successful strategies are built on understanding a problem properly and finding the best way of addressing it. As a first step, the people involved in developing the strategy should be educated on AIDS. The last two chapters of this manual can be used to assist with an education workshop. Good research should be done in each municipal area to find out how serious the problems associated with HIV and AIDS are, who are the most affected and what interventions are effective and realistic.

Here are some examples of the information needed:


  • What is the incidence of infection and wards are most affected?
  • Estimates for number of orphans.
  • Number of families that have lost a breadwinner.
  • Number of people receiving care from hospitals and clinics.
  • Number of people receiving support form welfare services and organisations

Availability of services and resources:

  • Educational and preventative services and projects available
  • Counselling, testing and support services available in area.
  • Health care services, treatment and facilities available
  • Home-based or other care services and projects
  • Orphan care projects and services available in area.
  • Municipal resources and services currently used
  • Organisations for people living with AIDS
  • Initiatives taken by schools and employers

Projected impact of HIV and AIDS on the following

  • Local health and welfare services
  • The local economy and availability of labour
  • Education
  • Social problems and crime
  • Housing and service delivery

Identify the projects and services and key gaps that exist in terms of the following areas:

  • Prevention and education
  • Provision of treatment, care and support for people living with AIDS or ill from AIDS
  • Provision of care and support for orphans
  1. Drawing in stakeholders

Municipalities cannot deal with AIDS without the cooperation and support of other government services, religious, community, welfare organisations and volunteers.

In every municipality, there are a number of key actors that should be involved in developing a strategy to tackle AIDS. It is important to recognise the different roles that different people can play. Municipal officials will play a different role from municipal councillors who will play a different role from government services or civil society organisations.

It is important to make a difference between the stakeholders and key people who can contribute to developing a strategy and the stakeholders that you would want to involve in the long term. For example an effective AIDS strategy will try to involve all school principals to make sure that orphans are identified and supported. But an AIDS strategy workshop will only involve perhaps one school principal who has already done something that will help you to develop a better strategy.

The following are examples of who should be asked to help develop a strategy:

  • Municipalities should play a coordinating role and bring stakeholders together to jointly develop a strategy and action plan. Within the municipality, key officials and politicians should be drawn in. The mayor, speaker and municipal manager are three key individuals who should be involved.
  • Key local individuals from government departments like the Health, Social Development and Home Affairs departments.
  • Welfare organisations like Child Welfare Society, orphanages and church welfare organisations.
  • Organisations from the community that already offer a service or have some expertise about AIDS.
  • Major employers, church leaders and community leaders.
  • Members of district or Provincial AIDS Councils can act as resource people.
  1. Analysing incidence, impact, available resources and key interventions

A strategy workshop of all stakeholders should be held where the research and information gathered should be presented for discussion. Stakeholders should analyse the information, develop problem statement and discuss the key interventions that are needed in the area to lower the infection rate and to care for people affected by AIDS. They should set broad goals for what they want to achieve in the long term.

  1. Deciding priorities and activities

The strategy workshop should decide on short-term objectives and priorities and discuss the kind of approaches that are needed. They should identify possible partnerships and existing and potential resources that can be used to implement the strategy.

A strategy is only a plan and implementation depends on having the best organisational structures to ensure effective coordination and mobilisation of resources.

  1. Getting support of leaders and the community

Changing attitudes about AIDS and mobilising community action depend on the support of local leaders and community organisations. It is important to popularise the strategy and win broad support for it. It should be presented to, and adopted by the municipal council and presented to key opinion-makers in the area.

A launch or a series of public activities can be used to increase community awareness, publicise services and mobilise volunteers.

  1. Provincial AIDS Councils

All provinces have set up Provincial AIDS Councils to coordinate the fight against AIDS. The Provincial AIDS Councils are meant to coordinate the work of different government departments as well as the work of civil society organisations.

The Provincial AIDS Councils should develop a coherent strategy for the province and make sure all stakeholders are working together to implement it.  The provincial strategy should reflect the priorities in the National Strategic Plan. The Provincial AIDS Councils should link with government departments like Health and Social Development, as well as with District and Local AIDS Councils and support the work they do. It should also work closely with welfare, faith-based and community-based organisations.

The Provincial AIDS Council should also help to mobilise resources that can be used in the fight against AIDS. It can play an important role to make sure that government and donor funding gets to the places where they are most needed.

It is important to find out what the Provincial AIDS Council in your province is doing and how to get support and advice from it.

  1. District AIDS Councils

All provinces are setting up District AIDS Councils to help coordinate work on AIDS in each municipal district. Most of these DACs have not been set up for long and many of them are still finding their feet. In different provinces, they sometimes work in different ways. The Department of Health is a key player in setting up the DACs. Health is organised according to districts and the district health officials coordinate all the government programmes like testing, treatment, clinics, support for home-care and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and TB.

The most important roles of DACs are to:

  1. Bring together the most important organisations and government departments that are involved in the fight against AIDS in the district
  2. Make sure that there is a strategy for tackling AIDS in the district
  3. Monitor implementation of the strategy and initiate work where there are no local projects
  4. Help to mobilise resources and build capacity for AIDS projects and for Local AIDS Councils

Most of the work on AIDS has to happen at a local level to have any effect. It is very important that DACs work closely with LACs and support their work on the ground. It is not practical to bring everyone to district meetings all the time and to try and coordinate work over a huge area. The LACs are in a better position to work with projects and organisations on the ground.

Once LACS are set up in all municipalities in a district, they should send representatives to the DAC so that there can be better coordination. DACs should help LACs to develop strategies, set up projects and access funding and resources.