Reaching out to their community Living with AIDS # 261

Reaching out to their community  Living with AIDS # 261

Last week, we visited Tumahole, a township in Parys in the Free State, where we met Khomanani Community Action volunteers as they carried out a door-to-door campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, TB, substance abuse and other STIs. This week, we hear how the Khomanani AIDS and TB awareness programme has become part of the community’€™s structures, such as clinics and schools.

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KHOPOTSO: On a daily basis ‘€“ even in wintry conditions – they tirelessly walk the length and breadth of the townships of Parys spreading the message of HIV prevention and healthy lifestyles. On the day of my visit, it was a particularly sad day for the Khomanani Community Action members in Tumahole. Before they could go on their rounds that week-day morning, they started at a memorial service for one of their own.

Sfx’€¦ (A hymn)’€¦

KHOPOTSO: The deceased’€™s name is Evodia Mkhomazi, popularly known as Mmantshese, a Sesotho nickname referring to her very slight built. In the car, after the memorial service, the convenor of the Khomanani Community Action group in Parys, Sam Mosoge, reveals a bit about Mmantshese.

SAM MOSOGE: Evodia Mkhomazi is one of our Khomanani members. She was a little tiny lady, a charming lady who knew her work very well. Every time when we were doing door-to-door’€¦ she was always there. But she became ill a few weeks ago. Her health deteriorated until she met her death today.

KHOPOTSO: Was she at all HIV-positive herself?

SAM MOSOGE: Actually, that was not disclosed to us. So, I cannot comment on that.

KHOPOTSO: In each community they work in, members of the Khomanani teams are selected from that particular area. Some of them are HIV-positive. This can be beneficial in two ways. They know the people they are talking with. And, if one has HIV, they can draw from their own experiences when dealing with other people. Apart from doing a door-to-door campaign, Mosoge’€™s team in Tumahole works closely with the Tumahole Clinic, where they refer people for professional medical care. Just at the entrance of the clinic, two volunteers have set up an information desk stacked up with leaflets on health tips for TB, STIs and HIV prevention and care. They are also advising patients.

Sfx’€¦ Counsellors speaking with the locals.

KHOPOTSO: But the more they succeed in getting people to seek medical care, the more overburdened the local clinic becomes, laments Mosoge.      

SAM MOSOGE: The clinic is becoming smaller and smaller and they don’€™t have enough staff because our work is to encourage people to come to the clinics’€¦ The clinic cannot cope with the patients that are coming.    

KHOPOTSO: Sister Leping is the head of the clinic.

Sfx’€¦ Sounds of people in clinic

SISTER LEPING: Really, it’€™s smaller. As you can see, it’€™s full inside here’€¦ In the corridor, people are standing there. On the verandah there, people are standing. They have no place to come in in the clinic. So, they are waiting outside.    

KHOPOTSO: More demand for health services and staff shortages is a problem facing the entire public health service in South Africa. Tumahole Clinic is the main health centre in the area. It was built in the 1980s for a much smaller community. But even if the Khomanani campaign means more and more patients for Tumahole Clinic, Sister Leping, is grateful for its contribution, particularly with TB, one of the major health problems in the community.

SISTER LEPING: They do house-to-house visits and they trace people who are sick and staying in the townships. They advise their families to bring them here. Most of them are coming. And those of TB ‘€“ who have defaulted ‘€“ are coming back now. They also trace TB sufferers who are staying at home. They give them sputum bottles and they come forward.

KHOPOTSO: Schools are another ally in the Khomanani campaign. On the day of my visit, the team was visiting Boitlamo Secondary School where music is used as a communication tool to advise learners on health issues such as HIV and AIDS.        

Sfx’€¦ A school choir singing

KHOPOTSO: Sylvester Lenka is the Life skills and orientation teacher at Boitlamo.

SYLVESTER LENKA: We have realised that most of our learners like singing’€¦ Our learners have that talent of singing. So, music, we chose it as an important part which we can communicate with.    

KHOPOTSO: For Mosoge, the school programme holds the key to ultimately winning the battle against HIV and AIDS in Tumahole.

SAM MOSOGE: If we can win the school-children because we have already won some of them, the disease will go down. Definitely, it will go down.