Tag Archives: HIV

State of SA Teens 2015

It’s an incredibly tough time to develop self-worth.

I am nobody’s mother but after four months of working with teens- the most solid advice I can offer parents is to build their child’s confidence. It unlocks the ability to trust one’s judgement but beyond that, I believe it influences the ability to make positive choices.

In South Africa, “Of 100 pupils that start school, only 50 will make it to Grade 12, 40 will pass, and only 12 will qualify for university” (Nicholas Spaull 2013:3). Over the past 20 years, international tests reveal that South Africa has the worst education system of all middle-income countries. The current education system is synonymous with poor quality schooling at the primary and secondary level. It has severely limited the youth’s capacity to gain further training and employment opportunities. As a result South Africa faces high youth and adult unemployment rates. In the recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the results for Q1 of 2015 show that the working age population is 35.8 million. Of those, 15.5 million people are employed, 5.5 million are unemployed and 14.8 million are not economically active (Statistics South Africa 2015).

So it comes as no surprise that I have an inbox full of pressing questions from young people and erroneous dilemmas beyond their age:

  1. “i told my partner that i dont want to be preg or get any desease so we used a condom and now i think im preg so i dont want the baby.”
  2. “I have 2 kids and the father does not support them- what can I do?”
  3. “I have a boyfriend who’s getting married next year wth mother of his children.he don’t want to break up with me n if thngs don’t go to plan he blame me for it.”
  4. “i went for hiv test and they came negetive so i wnt to knw are there any posibilities that they might be positive if my partner was positive?”
  5. “…we met in high school in 2012 and completed our matric in 2013. Since the baby was born he has never took any responsibility and now he keeps cheating me and blaming it on the distance I always forgave him for I don’t want mi baby to grow up without a dad n I love him.”

These are only a few social- ills that are a symptom of depression and insecurity; a vulnerability driven by low self-esteem. Considering the severity of our social, economic and political impediments it is a tremendous challenge to change the behaviour of people who may not even be aware that their actions are an indication of a society bereft of emotional and mental wellbeing.

I recently attended a talk hosted by Young Lab Association and Mail & Guardian and the panel included a 23 year old policy developer named Pearl Pillay.  I didn’t necessarily agree with her views on youth mobilisation however I absolutely admired the confidence and passion with which she spoke. Imagine living in a country whose development is driven and guided by young people by drawing on their energy, development creativity and skills to create positive change.

Encourage your child to think, read and write every day. Remember to point out the good things, not just the mistakes. Teach your children about decision- making even though popular culture is destroying independent thinking. Do not shy away from talking about their sexual and reproductive health and rights – the confidence to say no or accurately judge a situation may be their only weapon against HIV and unplanned pregnancy. It is a difficult time to be a confident teen but it will never be the right time to be held back by insecurities.

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Getting to Zero

i stock photo

I’m torn between two hot topics that require equal attention so I’m tweeting about COP 17 and blogging about World AIDS Day.

Zero AIDS new infections:

Ironically, HIV/AIDS is not a sexy topic. It’s an attention seeking, conceited and expensive devil. It’s almost 30 years since the first recognised cases of AIDS.  It resulted in a surge of rumours, theories and myths which we’re still battling to slay. It’s not a gay disease, it didn’t originate from a bestial encounter in the depths of Africa, it doesn’t only infect poor black heterosexuals and a hug, kiss or handshake will not jeopardise your health. It’s an exhausting battle. The same pamphlets that were handed out in the 90’s could still be handed out 20 years later. The same movies and documentaries made years ago are still relevant. Millions of Rands, Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Pula’s, Rupees, Pesos and Shillings have been poured into AIDS awareness campaigns.

Uganda began promoting sexual behaviour change in 1986. President Kaunda of Zambia announced that his son had died of AIDS in 1987. In 1993 an estimated 9 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa were infected with HIV and 1.7 million with AIDS. These numbers continue to fluctuate between bad and worse. In 1997, Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s most famous musician died of Kaposi’s Sarcoma; an AIDS-related illness. In 1999 Nevirapine, a new single dose drug for the future prevention of mother-to- child transmission in Africa. In 2002, Botswana began Africa’s first national AIDS treatment programme. Despite this, according to the World Health Organization 2.7 million people are newly infected worldwide.

Zero AIDS- related deaths:

I’m a little hopeful in this area. Anti- retroviral therapy has become more easily available and many people can live a long and healthy life as a result. Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda have become great examples of countries providing effective health and support systems. Aaron Mostoaledi (South African Health Minister) has been breaking a sweat trying to increase ARV rollout, HIV/Aids prevention strategies.

Zero Discrimination:

National radio stations were overflowing with callers eager to tell their stories about positive living and encouraging others to do the same. With the support of friends, family and a non-discriminative society many told stories of how they are fighting this attention seeking, conceited and expensive devil. In the time I’ve taken to write this blog over a thousand tweets with the hash tag World AIDS Day have been sent. Ordinary people, organisations, campaign groups and activists encouraging zero discrimination, zero AIDS related deaths and zero new infections. Apathy in itself is a disease so (in the words of Charlie Sheen) in some respects we’re “winning”.


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