Confusion reigns over Khomanani? Living with AIDS # 273
There are still no definite answers from the Health Department regarding the fate their flagship HIV/AIDS communication campaign, Khomanani. There have been widespread reports that the programme has been halted. But the Health Minister says that’s news to her.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: I think there’s confusion there. Khomanani is a government communication strategy. All that we do is tender to people to come and assist us to augment what we’re already doing in the department. It’s not a stand alone thing. It is a government communication strategy therefore it is in our own hands to see how we further communicate.
YOLISA: Speaking while in Canada, Toronto, at the AIDS conference; Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala said as far as she is concerned, there’s been no decision made yet regarding Khomanani.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: We haven’t reached a decision. Why they decided to close, I don’t know. Well you have the information; they haven’t told me that they’re closing.
YOLISA: Health Director ‘ General Thami Mseleku has said that the government wanted to see the results of an independent evaluation of Khomanani before issuing a new tender.
The last tender was awarded to Johnnic Communications (Johncom) and Meropa Communications Consortium.
Speaking during AM Live’s after 8 Debate on Tuesday, departmental spokesperson Sibani Mngadi, seemed to agree that the campaign is being re-examined. Asked whether the review of Khomanani is a concession that the campaign has not worked, he responded by saying,
SIBANI MNGADI: No, it means we have been doing something, and we need to make sure that we increase the impact of that intervention. And we are trying to look now and say these are the areas that remain problematic because we need to streamline our messages; adjust them accordingly, make sure those communities we’re not reaching, we’re able to reach. For instance, there are surveys that are indicating that older people and certain sections of the population are not receiving the messages in the same way as the youth is receiving it; which has seen a very positive reaction from the youth, and therefore we need look at how we reach out to the sections of the population.
YOLISA: Government has spent more than R300million on the Khomanani campaign over the past five years. Khomanani’s main focuses are on prevention, treatment, care and support and a community action campaign.
According to reports, the communications campaigns came to a stop after officials decided against appointing a new service provider, before existing contracts ended.
When it was put to the minister that certain programmes have been stopped already, she said;
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: They haven’t come to report to me, who signed an agreement with them, that they’ve stopped certain activities. I don’t know where that information comes from.
YOLISA: The government declared 2006; the year of ‘accelerated HIV and AIDS prevention’ with an emphasis on strengthening the communication campaigns to prevent the spread of HIV. Yet confusion over Khomanani is likely going to add to the furore over the government’s HIV and AIDS messaging.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: Listen, we used to run programmes even before we engaged these groups, so it is not correct. We had programmes running on the ground. I think what we sought to do was to strengthen the programmes, so you can’t say there were no programmes, programmes were there.
YOLISA: And it seems the minister was hinting that the programme might be done in-house, completely under the control of the Health Department.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: After all, we might say ‘well, they’ve served us well. Now our communications people must continue with the work because that’s what they’re employed for after all.’
YOLISA: But it seems government is also confused about Khomanani’s future.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: We are looking into extending or not extending the tender and which is normal practice. I don’t know why we’re being pressurised just because we’re government, should we?
YOLISA: Even though government’s HIV and AIDS communication has effectively stopped with the Khomanani being put on ice, the Minister says she fails to understand what the hullabaloo’s all about.
DR MANTO TSHABALALA: I really don’t think we should be pressurised ‘ it’s just the nature of South Africans, they like pressure.