The Cure for AIDS is Close to be Found but, Never for SALT

One may either call it HIV, AIDS both or whatsoever as the degree of knowledge differs, for us the distinction does not matter. The undeniable fact is that it is there within us and continuously spreading. AIDS remains one of the world’s most serious health challenges(UNAIDS, 2012: 8), for as UNIADS (2012) in the “Report on the Global AIDS epidemic | 2012” indicates that 1,700,000 people died of AIDS only in 2011, about 2,500,000 were newly infected and 34,000,000 are living with HIV.

What big numbersL!?...

In the mean time the efforts that are being put in place by various communities – from rural to the metropolitans; individual – organizations – nations,  local to global, ‘uneducated’ to ‘specialists’ and citizens to governors – are now demonstrating plausible achievements in responding to AIDS. In fact, they “continue to achieve dramatic results in the AIDS response – in lives saved and new infections averted” (UNAIDS, 2012: 4).


The UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report for 2012 reveals significant progress in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in the past two years. The number of people accessing life-saving treatment rose by 60 per cent and new infections have fallen by half in 25 countries – 13 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS-related deaths have dropped by a quarter since 2005” (UN Secretary General Statement, 2012).


Adding on those efforts, the scientific community restlessly, continues to investigate a possible cure for AIDS and great developments towards that have been registered. Just as an example, the Mail Online of 26th July 2012, by Rob Waugh reports that “a cure for AIDS has got a step closer after scientists found that a common cancer drug can purge the disease as it lies dormant in the body”.

What big resultsJ!?

Among various approaches developed to respond to AIDS over decades, there is the Constellation for AIDS Competence (now for Community Life Competence) approach. Let us share words from who can say it louder: “The Constellation for AIDS Competence stimulates and connects local responses to HIV around the world. Founders launched the Constellation in December 2004. Increasingly restless with the notion that programs providing a mix of technology and money would suffice to solve the issue of HIV, they believe in the capacity of people themselves to respond to threats such as HIV” (HIVOS, 2009)[1]. Indeed, constellation members believe that every community has the capacity to respond to life's challenges, to build a common vision, to act, and to adapt[2] what we may call “a local response”[3]and, all we have to do is to stimulate and connect local responses around the world[4]. Our big friend and member of our community Jean-Louis Lamboray wisely summarises the work in following words: "Communities that respond are like stars: they show the way to Life Competence. As communities connect for sharing and learning, they create an ever growing Constellation. Our role as facilitators is to stimulate those local responses and those connections"[5].

Behind all this, the epicentre of the approach is that “as HIV spreads from person to person in speed proportional to their blood connections we should build up a response that also spreads from person to person and communities to communities, thus in a greater social connections speed than that of HIV bloodily spreading” (Jean-Louis Lamboray speaking to AIDS Response Donors and UNAIDS in Maputo – Mozambique in 2011)[6].

In doing so, the starting point for the constellation was the development of tools and methodologies to connect people (first) as humans before specialities and categories, (second) against their dreams and concerns instead of problems and victims ‘vis a vis’ solutions and resources. One of these tools is the SALT “way of thinking and relating ourselves to a situation” (The Constellation, 2005:01), a way of doing and behaving[7]. Exactly, SALT… just like the salt used to make delicious cousins all over the world. It penetrates to the very basic elements of food staff and mixes up within it until becoming part of it, thus stimulating the test of food. It connects people’s tests from homes, take ways, restaurants and everywhere. Yes, the SALT of the Constellation has been spread all over the world, mixing up many different life experiences of people to the stage SALT became part of them (all those who ever had a contact with it). More and more people become connected through it and the less space is left to distinguish their thoughts away of SALT.


"The SALT process has transformed my thoughts, actions and the community I work for. I started holding my community as a mother, as a government employee, as a community leader. I am there beside my community, not for teaching but listening, deep listening, to transform it to a positive force of change" (Testimony of another great member of the community, Ibu Henny[8] who had contact with SALT).


The response to AIDS started as a health sector issue and thus deserved a response based on a medical approach. New developments on efforts to control the disease the need to work in a collaborative environment of multiple-sectors actors came up to the surface. A combination of varieties of approaches, development of partnerships and networks formed part of the approach. Within a variety of specialities, structures, resources, etc. the order of the day was only one, the response to AIDS. While contributing to this rich reflection, the Constellation considered reflecting over its own methodologies, and the strongest one, the SALT. The question would be, we may assume, what of SALT after AIDS? What our communities say of it? The response was already given by experiences. We landed to a realization that the approach is already necessary in many other aspects of individual, group, communities, nations… lives, and not only for AIDS. In fact the approach of the Constellation, especially SALT proved to be effective in many (if not every) aspects of life. The facilitation teams adapted the steps and the order of the steps to different local contexts. As for the Constellation states “this process has been applied to HIV, malaria, diabetes and other life concerns”[9]. This may be the main justification for the change from AIDS Competence to Community Life Competence.

Today we are witnessing the victory of AIDS response and we may proudly say: even if it still remains a life and development burden, AIDS has its days counted. However, the SALT way of leaving, despite the fact that it was a mechanism to respond to AIDS is within us, by us, for us, thus SALT forever.

[3][3] ibid

[4][4] ibid

[6] Sorry JL, we may have cited you not very correctly… but, 100% sure the spirit of your words was well captured. Right?

[8] Secretary of local AIDS commission and a lawyer by profession

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on December 19, 2012 at 12:00pm

Inspiring, Joao! SALT begins from self, isn't it! Thanks for your response.

Comment by Joao Arnaldo Vembane on December 18, 2012 at 7:25pm

Hi Rituu,

Thanks for your comment. Indeed I have already used it and still doing so within my visits to partners. Like last time (last week of November) I went in a partners visit in Nampula (the north of Mozambique) to meet my partners. I am coordinating a project, by a Catholic orgnaization (CAFOD) that provides funds to Cathlilic church social commissions to work with governance projects. So, you can imagine the pressure our partners fill and their expections of a donor going to visit them (log frames, budgets, plans, etc.). Tension was high before I introduced my self as a person (Joao, muslim, married, from Maputo, love this and that places and my motivation in working on governance and with them). I could see smiles and breath of aliviation. Then the conversation flowed normally. I do this all the times since I've learned about the test of salt.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on December 16, 2012 at 5:46pm

Thanks Joao for your sharing. Have you been able to apply it beyond HIV?


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