An Award-Winning South African Organisation Has Helped 3.5 Million People Access HIV Health Services
But, it says, efforts to end HIV infections must include communities and partnerships.
The nonprofit HIVSA was launched back in 2002, with the aim of improving the lives of people and communities affected by HIV and AIDS in Gauteng province in South Africa.
Now, the award-winning organisation has helped over 3.5 million people to access healthcare services — like free HIV testing, counselling, and education — with a particular focus on supporting women and girls.
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One of these is Gogo Rosina Nkomo, who is HIV positive and unemployed, living in Lehae township in the Soweto region.
She helps another woman, Brenda Segopa, who is also HIV positive, take care of a 3-month-old child, Masego, who is HIV negative.
She attended HIVSA’s workshops focussing on the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child; as well as the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding regardless of a mother’s HIV status.
“Before I went to the HIVSA’s workshop… I didn’t know that breastfeeding is the best for all babies,” she told HIVSA. “I also didn’t know that it is not good to give babies water, soft porridge, and other mashed-up food before six months.”
“Now that I know what is good, I can help Brenda and other mothers with small babies,” she said.
South Africa has the biggest and most high profile HIV epidemic in the world, according to HIVSA. Over 7 million people are believed to be living with HIV in the country.
Efforts to end new HIV infections, however, have to include communities and partnerships, according to the organisation.
In fact, HIVSA’s fundamental belief is that communities matter and that solutions to developmental challenges must be unlocked at a community level.
“Solutions to community social and health problems lie within communities,” the organisation highlights on its website.
It’s currently working with a network over more than 100 community-based organisations in Gauteng, mainly in the areas of greater Soweto, Orange Farm, and the Sedibeng region — aiming to build community capacity to respond to and address social and health issues.
And the organisation’s hard work is being recognised both nationally and internationally. HIVSA was awarded the Dreams Innovation Challenge award for its Choma Dreams Cafés, which were rolled out at 43 community sites in 2016 to support youth-friendly services at a community level.
According to CEO Yashmita Naidoo, it is “also important to note that our Choma online initiative has reached over 1.3 million youth (70% female and 30% male) since inception in 2013.”
The initiative includes an online magazine, Choma Magazine, to help reach more people affected by HIV and AIDS through the online digital platform. The magazine is now in its fifth year.
“The initiative is funded by the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), which aims to engage women between the ages of 15 and 25 through the interactive online magazine, which is accessible on mobile phones,” said Naidoo.
Choma, which is available on choma.co.za, has reached 1.4 million young women and girls since inception in 2013 and engages young women and girls on HIV and Sexual and reproductive.
HIVSA’s main areas of focus include HIV prevention and helping people, especially in more vulnerable communities, access treatment and support; creating sustainable community-based organisations in the health and social sector; and using innovative technology like mobile phones and social media to reach young people.
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