Duration 4min 49sec


KB: Soul City, a social health development initiative, in partnership with government’€™s Khomanani campaign has been tasked with developing an awareness strategy to coincide with the pending roll-out of the HIV and AIDS treatment programme. For the roll-out to be successful, people have to know that it’€™s available and how to access it. The work that Soul City will do will spans a range of media. Lebogang Ramafoko is a Project Manager with the organisation.

LEBOGANG RAMAFOKO: We’€™ve produced this booklet on ‘€œHIV and AIDS’€¦ action now!’€ It has a lot of vital information around why is AIDS spreading, what is HIV. What we are including in that information in order to contextualise ARV treatment is to reinforce how you prevent HIV and AIDS, to add messages around how you can live longer and healthier with ARV treatment. And it goes into what is ARV treatment, what are the benefits, where can I get it, how to make it work for me, what are the side-effects, and it also deals with treating other illnesses.

KB: The same booklet will be produced in two different forms to reach separate audiences. The first is intended for people with a Level Five or Grade Six education. The second will be aimed at a more literate audience.

LEBOGANG RAMAFOKO: We will be rolling out eight million copies in all our 11 official languages from April. But, we are part of the campaign that will be kicking in as soon as possible in the beginning of March, just communicating and above the line, meaning advertisements will see and hear, that says two things: One, ARV is available, go and find out from your health-care worker or go and get tested. And another one that says they’€™re available to know how to benefit from them, get the Soul City booklet.

KB: In October, a new Soul City radio series will be broadcast in all languages. That will soon be followed by a TV series early next year. Both these will focus on AIDS treatment. While antiretrovirals are a primary component of the Treatment Plan, nutrition and traditional medicines also feature prominently. An important message will be for patients to understand what they are taking and why.

RAMAFOKO: We are not of the opinion that we can basically stand with a stick and say to people, ‘€œThis is the good way, this is not the good way’€’€¦ However, what we encourage people to do is that do not just mix, even if it is an immune booster that you’€™ve been using all this time, or a multi-vitamin tablet’€¦ There might be a reaction’€¦ We need to say to our people’€¦ be a much more proactive and empowered patient. Whatever you take, take it to the doctor and say, ‘€œYou’€™ve given me these drugs, but I’€™ve also been taking this, and I’€™m feeling a bit funny. What do you think this is?’€ And not to judge, or to say, ARV’€™s, because they are Western medicines they are better than traditional medicines. We are saying adherence is key to ARV’€™s. It is very important for the country that the programme works well.

KB: Ramafoko says it’€™s also important to tell the truth about what antiretrovirals can do, or cannot do for people.

RAMAFOKO: The biggest and first thing that we say is that it is not a cure, but it does help you live a healthier and longer life. We also are basically saying not everyone who has just tested needs ARV’€™s. We are basically saying some people will still die on ARV’€™s. For example, with the roll-out Plan, one of the defining ways for people to benefit is if your CD 4 count is below 200. Now, clinically, that is when you are very sick. And sometimes for some people it may have a Lazarus effect where their CD 4 count shoots up and it does what it has done for a lot of people where they say, ‘€œI was almost on my death-bed and now I’€™m sick’€. But unfortunately for others, the opportunistic infections might just take them and it may just be too late. So, while they work and they are effective, I think it is true. And that is what we want to send to our audiences’€¦ not everybody is just going to have the Lazarus benefit from the ARV’€™s.    

KB: The most important message to send out, says Ramafoko, is of the need for openness and tolerance around HIV and AIDS and to support those on medication.

RAMAFOKO: Our biggest threat around successful ARV treatment is not the availability or non-availability of drugs. It’€™s people adhering. And people can adhere within an environment where people are supportive. We are going to need who are going to act as treatment assistants where they can encourage people to take the treatment. We’€™ve got wonderful stories where people really attest to the fact that having somebody that will say, ‘€œIt’€™s time to take your treatment’€, whether it’€™s a family member or whatever. So, I think we can turn the tide against HIV and AIDS. We can at least, whether we are positive or negative, all be supportive of people living with HIV.

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe  


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