/ 1 November 2013

Reducing HIV’s impact

Reducing Hiv’s Impact

The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation has been working in partnership with the public health clinic in Masiphumelele township near Cape Town since 2000 to reduce the impact of the HIV epidemic.

The effects of poverty, crime, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, depression and abuse are evident throughout the township.

The primary goal of the project is to implement, monitor and evaluate an integrated holistic youth programme to reduce incidence rates of HIV, sexually transmitted illnesses and adolescent pregnancy in youth in Masiphumelele and surrounding communities.

In March 2011 the foundation opened a youth centre, which has helped turn hopelessness into a positive window to the future for the youth of Masiphumelele.

The primary goal of the centre is to create a safe, open environment for young people using health, education and life skills programmes that emphasise positive health and behaviour messages.

With a population of about 20 000, one third of which is under the age of 20, Masiphumelele has an HIV prevalence of 25% in people over the age of 15, and almost 10% of adolescents aged 11 to 19 are HIV infected.

The foundation’s spokesperson, Lavinia Crawford-Browne, says most residents have a rural background with strong links to the Eastern Cape.

“The project focuses on three components: the provision of a reproductive health clinic for youth; education; and the provision of a holistic approach to adolescent development through sport and recreation.”

The youth centre has a reproductive health clinic, or HealthZone, with a full-time nurse and counsellor.

The EduZone provides education and homework support, and a computer lab with instruction.

The ZoneActive covers sport, recreation, drama, art and fun activities. The centre is aligned to the national department of health’s policy to promote voluntary counselling and testing, particularly among the younger generation, in a youth-friendly reproductive health clinic.

Talks and courses on HIV prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, hygiene and nutrition are held regularly by a health educator.

Attendance at the youth centre is recorded through a biometric fingerprint system, and a points system monitors each individual’s interests and activities during visits.

Young people accrue points for participating in various activities, earning rewards in the form of educational or fun outings.

Crawford-Browne says the layout of the township is unusual in that it is walled, surrounded on all sides by freehold properties, making it unable to expand.

“Being a contained community made it an ideal site for our kind of work — we are able to see the visible difference we’re making. Already we have 2 000 youths coming regularly to the centre,” she says.

“Our aim is to foster a generation who will make healthy lifestyle choices and change the current landscape of rising HIV/Aids rates. We believe that through commitment and compassion, innovation and energy, we can make a substantial difference,” says Crawford-Browne.

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. It forms part of a larger supplement.