KwaZulu-Natal activators are joining forces with various organisations to fight against HIV infections, which continue to hit this province.
A three-hour dialogue, named Imbizo- a Zulu word meaning assembly or gathering, will take place at the Coastal KZN College’s AS-Salaam Campus in Port Shepstone, under Ugu District, on Tuesday, 05 April from 12h00 till 15h30.
About 200 community members are expected to take part in this robust dialogue, where they will be grappling around the issues of HIV prevention, management, control and access to healthcare, with the hope that they will together get to the heart of the problem.
The Bill of Rights sets out a number of rights, including the right to access information and the right access to health care, which includes reproductive rights, but there are various challenges and limitations, especially for people living in rural communities.
There are a number of contributing factors to this growing number of HIV infections in KwaZulu Natal, including false traditional beliefs, sexual violence, and lack of educational programmes.
The Ugu District is made up of six local municipalities, five of them are mainly rural municipalities, with high rates of unemployment and poverty. According to the latest statistics, HIV prevalence is at 27.9% amongst people between 15 and 49 years in KZN. However, this Imbizo, doesn’t just want the numbers to decrease, but, provide insight on how to enhance and strengthen peer education, sexual rights and reproductive health.
Hibiscus Coast Municipality youth manager, Phumlani Mzobe, said his office chose to join this campaign because dialogues have much larger impact than campaigns, “Dialogues give people the opportunity to talk. It goes deeper in finding root causes. For example, people will get the opportunity to say why are we still skeptical in terms of using prevention measures,” he said.
KZN activators who are planning this dialogue hope it will eradicate the myths on HIV/AIDS prevention methods, address the issues on stereotype in relation to HIV/AIDS, create zero tolerant on stigma and further influence the Department of Health’s policies. Though, the target audience is youth, adults are also invited to take part, in order for intergenerational conversation to also take place. During the event the community will also be updated on the latest developments in government’s efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Unlike other dialogues, there will be no panelists, One of Imbizo organisers, Nkosinathi Mpungose, activator 2014, said they want the session to encourage maximum participation of all attendants and create a safe environment for people to talk, teach and learn.
Nkosinathi further explained that the aim is not to infringe people’s rights to choose, sexuality and reproduction, but to engage on what influences their choices and how they can choose knowing the facts about HIV/AIDS.
“We are doing this informative dialogue because there are cultural beliefs that constitute myths on HIV/AIDS, while the health care support is limited, so we’re hoping that by facilitating a conversation we will create awareness,” he added.
This dialogue will happen while South Africa is getting ready to host one of the biggest events in the world, International AIDS Conference, from 18 to 22 July in Durban. This year’s main focus is to explore different systems and ideas to empower the country on improving the health system and services concerning HIV/AIDS.
Youth and adolescents are the concern of the international community and RSA have challenges on the group age participations when it comes to the topic. The Imbizo will also create a culture where young people can express and voice out their sex lifestyle with their peers and come up with possible solutions.
Sanele Hadebe, activator 2013, says it’s important that this conversation is led by young people, “It’s one of the conversations that young people shy away from them because some of them feel like they don’t know enough, some of them feel like they are not touched, but the reality is that we’re all affected. We can also reduce government spending, therefore taxes. The more young people are aware of the facts the more they will behave accordingly,” he said.
A number of government departments and non-government organisations such as, THINK, Ugu Youth Office, Hope to Educate, Islamic Medical Association, Let’s stop AIDS are in full support of this initiative. Community leaders, including the royal house representatives will also take part.
This dialogue is part of a series named Youth Imbizo, under the umbrella theme ‘Democracy in Action’, whereby activators facilitate conversations in their communities to build and shame South Africa’s democracy.