Can talking about sex to children help them understand the dangers of HIV and AIDS? As a mother and a role model, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister for Public Service and Administration, feels it is important for parents to get involved in issues that relate to their children’s health, especially when it comes to addressing HIV/AIDS. She says that discussing sexual issues with children should not be a taboo but an opportunity to enlighten children about the various choices they have. She says her own children are keen to talk about HIV/AIDS.
In many parts of Africa, talking openly about matters of sexuality is taboo and there is still a stigma attached to illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. In many traditionally patriarchal cultures, women and young people have little status or power when it comes to decision-making and this affects their ability to negotiate safe sex. Professor Davison Munodawafa, Director of the Guidance, Counseling and Youth Development Centre for Africa in Malawi, says while sex remains a private issue, AIDS has forced some parents to open up and talk about sex.
For Thanduxolo Bonkolo of Nyanga, Cape Town, facing up to his addiction to drugs is the only way he can survive. Thanduxolo says his addiction to the drug Mandrax turned him into a thief and that he even stole from his parents to support his habit. But he is trying to kick the habit and turned to the Guguletu Anti-Drug Association for help. Nomfanelo Plaatjie, of the Siyasebenza Clinic in the Phillipi Informal Settlement, says drugs have a negative impact not only on the people who abuse them but on their friends and family as well.
The Communities of Guguletu, Langa, Nyanga and Crossroads have taken upon themselves a responsibility to fight alcohol and drug abuse in their townships. Pupils, parents and elderly societies are saying enough to drug trafficking.
How do well-known South Africans deal with talking about sex to their children? To celebrate youth during the month of June, Thandeka Teyise of Health-e News speaks to two role models. The Mayor of Cape Town, NomaIndia Mfeketho, says children have the right to know more about issues that affect them and that discussing sex opens their minds, enabling them to make informed choices. Essop Pahad, Minister in the President’s Office feels HIV awareness messages are getting through to the youth but adds that it is still best for parents to talk to their children about their options.
Sexism, culture and religion can have a positive or negative impact on the young. So says Brandon Keegan, an 18-year-old first year student at UCT and a Sunday school teacher at the Rondebosch United Presbyterian Church. Brendan feels churches can become more involved in HIV/AIDS awareness among young congregants who are often the most vulnerable. Thandeka Teyise of Health-e News Service compiled this audio in English.
June, youth month in South Africa, is being celebrated in a variety of ways. The Treatment Action Campaign together with health workers, including doctors and nursing staff, will celebrate by highlighting poor working conditions in some hospitals and clinics in the country. The campaign hopes to find a solution to the shortage of medicines in some local clinics and hospitals and to urge the youth to participate in matters of health. Vuyani Jacobs, of the TAC, says the main struggle is around HIV/AIDS and urged health workers to join activists in finding an amicable solution to the country’s health problems.
Kenya is one of the leading African countries that have started AIDS vaccine trials. The Kenyan AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) was initiated in 1998 and began HIV-1 vaccine trials in 2001. All of the vaccines that were tested have been specifically designed to be used in Kenya but have also been tested in UK. Phase One testing in humans has been proven to be safe and, says Dr Omu Anzala of KAVI, second phase vaccine trials will kick off soon. These will take approximately two years and will test the body’s immune response to the vaccine. The trials will include volunteers from Nairobi and London. Thandeka Teyise of Health-e News Service spoke to Dr Anzala and asked him to explain KAVI’S second phase of the vaccine trials.
Cervical cancer or cancer of the womb is the second most common cancer in South Africa affecting one in every 41 women, according to the Cape Provincial Department of Health. Each year about 5000 new cases are detected and 1500 women die from cervical cancer. The good news is that this type of cancer is entirely curable if discovered in time. A simple pap smear can determine whether abnormal cells that may later become cancerous are present in the cervix. Thandeka Teyise went to Khayelitsha to watch a stage play, Diaries of my Womanhood, which aims to create awareness around cervical cancer and how men should get involved in their partner’s health. She spoke to the director and the writer Itumeleng Wa-lehurele.
Africa has the highest rate of HIV infections in the world with an estimated 13 million children left orphaned by AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, around 75 precent of a population of 40 million people is infected. These are the challenges that face African scientists who are still searching for an AIDS vaccine. Since 1987, says the African Aids Vaccine Programme over 27 candidate vaccines have been tested but none have proved effective. Thandeka Teyise of Health-e News Service visited Kenya and spoke to Dr Malaki Owili of the Research Society on AIDS. She asked him about the challenges and obstacles faced by African scientists. In this audio Dr Owili sketches the background to the African AIDS Vaccine Programme and the development processes thus far.
While South African health journalists are doing a sterling job covering HIV/AIDS related issues, the focus should now shift to the provision of anti retroviral drugs and treatment. Richard Delate, of the Centre for Aids Development, Research and Education (CADRE) says while politics dominates coverage of the pandemic the focus should now be on people are affected and infected by the virus. He applauds the role and expertise of health journalists in the country who he said are committed to conveying information about the epidemic.
Wezi Khoza, Executive Manager for Corporate Health at SAA, says since the launch of its AIDS policy employees have been making use of the company’s clinic. Apart from providing Voluntary Counseling and Testing of HIV, staff at the clinic also manage other life limiting diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Ms Khoza said SAA was honouring the Bill of Rights and that workers who are HIV positive would not be discriminated against and that the company would attempt to create a secure, caring and confidential environment. Thandeka Teyise compiled this report.