Mowbray teenagers get HIV-smart

2017-12-12 06:00
Stakeholders partnered to raise awareness of HIV/Aids in Mowbray on Thursday 30 November, including, from left, Felicia Gumede, Paddy Chapple, Renecia Avontuur and JP Smith.

Stakeholders partnered to raise awareness of HIV/Aids in Mowbray on Thursday 30 November, including, from left, Felicia Gumede, Paddy Chapple, Renecia Avontuur and JP Smith.

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Mowbray Library held its transversal youth development intervention themed “Know your status” in the town hall on Thursday 30 November.

About a hundred youngsters between the ages of 10 and 25 participated. Adults up to the age of 75 also showed interest and took advantage of the offered services.

The event was aimed at giving the youth of Mowbray insight on raising an HIV-free generation.

Different stakeholders interacted with the youngsters. Later on, everyone at the event was encouraged to undergo tests and was offered counselling.

Senior librarian Felicia Gumede says the event was a success, with everyone showing enthusiasm and volunteering to get tested. She says the awareness event was targeted at students of the local high schools and tertiary institutions to give them the right information on HIV transmission, prevention and treatment and positive living with HIV/Aids.

“City of Cape Town health workers who conducted the voluntary counselling and testing recorded 73 people aged 16 to 75 who were willing to do the HIV testing and TB screening,” she says.

She says they worked closely with the City’s health department to organise the event, while the Friends of Mowbray Library raised funds at their open markets to support the day.

Pearl Sojola, head of the libraries in the area, says she applauds Mowbray Library’s staff for initiating the event to promote healthy living and play a part in fighting HIV/Aids. She encourages other librarians to also go the extra mile.

Addressing the attendees, JP Smith, Mayco member for safety, security, and social services, said: “The City encourages every resident to know his HIV status by testing at least every 12 months and, if HIV-positive, to take antiretroviral therapy (ART) consistently. HIV testing services are freely available at every City health facility, with ART at 38 of these facilities. City health is in the process of expanding its ART footprint.”

He also commended the staff of NGO partners for their hard work, “sometimes in trying circumstances, to provide crucial services to communities”.

Smith called on the public and stakeholders to continue addressing the issue of low rates of participation in similar initiatives with people still being fearful of getting ­tested.

“We are struggling to reach teenagers and men. Of all the tests in the public sector in the city over the last number of years, men make up only about a third. They also account for only about a third of patients starting ART. We have to address this if we are to continue making meaningful progress in the fight against HIV,” Smith said.

Teenagers who attended the event said it helped them gain a better understanding of HIV and how it could be prevented.

One teen, Nalene, said she knew that HIV was an incurable, infectious disease but did not understand that you could live a positive life with it. She said she was inspired by a women who shared her story of living with it since 1998 and she realised there was no reason to discriminate against HIV-positive people.

Another girl, Cynthia, said she had learned about prevention and the importance of staying healthy as a young person. She said they had the chance to get to know their statuses without fear of getting judged.

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