NGO puts critical health issues in spotlight

Carer at the South African Christian Leadership Assembly (SACLA) Monica Poqane in conversation with Bantu Zotwana.

While the country is doing well when it comes to curbing certain diseases, there is still a need to speak to people about their health, according to the South African Christian Leadership Assembly (SACLA).

On Thursday February 14, the faith-based organisation, in collaboration, with the TB/HIV Care Association hosted an awareness event in Ilitha Park, Khayelitsha, where HIV, diabetes and blood pressure tests were done under the theme: I am responsible for my sexual and reproductive health.

Programme manager Vivienne Budaza said the day was put aside to have crucial conversations on sexual and reproductive health among adults and the youth, including school pupils.

Ms Budaza said there was still a lot to be done to make people aware of illnesses.

She said there are still people who did not believe in using condoms and practising safe sex. “It is our duty to educate people. Education will never end. There are those who heed the call but there are still people who need us to educate them.”

She said from time to time Sacla held a massive outreach campaign in collaboration with its partners TB/HIV Care Association for HIV screening, targeting malls, taxi ranks, taverns and braai areas.

“This is to ensure that we reach out to as many people as we possibly can. Apart from the activations, we do these on a smaller scale within the local wards on a weekly basis,” she said.Ms Budaza also called on parents to talk openly with their children about sexual and reproductive health. She said it was up to parents to help young people with their health and enable them to seek advice. Speaking to Vukani, some parents vowed to be at the forefront of fighting HIV and teenage pregnancy in their areas.

One of those parents, Bantu Zotwana took it upon himself to say he would lead the change by advocating for sexual and reproductive health education for young people in his area of Ilitha Park and across Khayelitsha. Zotwana, who wrote a book about schizophrenia after being diagnosed with it years ago, commended the work by the social workers and carers.

He said it was important that young people were educated about different illnesses. He said he is a living example of doing well when you have support on your side. 

“These are educational programmes that we need to take them forward. We need to protect our nation and young people in particular. I was using drugs, but was lucky to have a family who did not give up on me and made sure I received all the help I needed. So I call on parents to be helpful to their children and support them,” he said. 

He commended the carers for their work. He said there should be more of these campaigns even at schools. 

“There are those parents who find it hard to be open with their children about sex and other important issues; they need to be helped through these campaigns. All of us have a huge role to play to curb social ills and diseases,” he said.

The SACLA carers hit the streets to distribute free condoms and raise health awareness. The organisations said they would continue their job of educating communities.