Today saw the fight against the scourge of HIV and Aids in our city take a giant step forward when the Nelson Mandela Bay Counseling and Testing Campaign was launched at the Raymond Mhlaba Sports Centre in Motherwell. The launch was specifically located in Motherwell, based on the fact that it has the highest prevalence of pregnancy terminations, teenage pregnancies, HIV infections and sexual violence in Nelson Mandela Bay, according to the HIV and Aids Office Manager of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Dineo Mokonenyane.
At the launch of the Campaign, Mokonenyane presented the state of HIV and Aids and relevant factors and influences in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. Her presentation was based on a report that was presented by the Department of Health at the Nelson Mandela Bay Aids Council sitting held two weeks ago.
The awareness campaign is a partnership programme between the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the Departments of Health, Social Development and Education, and the Non-Governmental Organisation, Khethimpilo. The main objectives of the campaign is to decrease the rate of new HIV infections among girls and young women, decrease teenage pregnancies – especially among female learners – , keep girls in school until they finish Matric, introduce them to programmes that will assist them in furthering their studies and also decrease the number of sexual and gender based violence.
The campaign will be ongoing, and while it will cover the entire City, most of the focus will be on Motherwell. “The advantage of this Campaign is that fact that it is grounded in the community and we are working with an NGO that is entrenched within the community of this area. Schools have also embraced this campaign, and teachers and pupils will be taking it to schools and homes,” said Mokonenyane.
The day started with a march, where youth and pupils, joined by members of the South African Police Service, marched through the streets of Motherwell to raise awareness of the challenges faced by young people, predominantly girls in the Motherwell area.
The proceedings at the launch also had a practical component: a number of young people present went through HIV counseling and testing, life skills guidance and advice. They were also given valuable information about HIV and Aids, dealing with sexual abuse, the risks associated with the termination of pregnancy and the repercussions of teenage pregnancy. The spotlight was also turned on the thorny issue of Sugar daddies – now popularly known as Blessers.
The highest HIV and Aids infection rate was recorded among girls not older than 25 years. Interestingly, the infection rate among men of the same age is far lower.
“This is a glaring issue that clearly indicates that these young girls are taken advantage of by men far older than them and infect them with HIV because they do not have to power to say NO. Part of our plan is to put parents at the centre, but the integration of all stakeholders is critical,” said Mokonenyane.
The HIV positive rate at an antenatal Clinic in Sub-district A (Motherwell) is 18.5 percent, compared to the much lower rate of 8.2 percent recorded in Sub-district C, which covers the Bethelsdorp areas.
The number of babies born by persons under 18 years in Sub-district A is 657 per quarter (three months),compared to the much lower figure of 2014 in Sub-district C.
Speaking at the event, Ward 58 Councillor Mendiswa Makunga urged parents to be open and frank with their children in communicating about sex and sexuality; especially as teenagers are easily influenced by their friends and ”blessers” to make bad decisions, the result being the high rates of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is committed to take the fight against HIV and Aids and teenage pregnancies to greater levels, because too much of our youth are falling through the cracks and end up unemployed and destitute. This leads them directly to sexual predators, who entice them with material things,” said Ward Councillor Makunga.
Masiphathisane High School learner Sokhana Boltina (15) said that she was grateful to be part of the HIV testing campaign. “Attending this programme has empowered me! From now on I will be an ambassodor for this programme, I will take it back to my school and community. I now know better about unplanned pregnancies and the importance of abstaining from sex, using condoms and staying in school to secure my future,” said Boltina.
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