News from the Mission
Leading the way to an AIDS-free generation
By Moagisi Letlhaku | Staff Writer | 01 August 2012
July 27, 2012 - The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria hosted an AIDS seminar themed, “Turning the tide together: Leading the way to an AIDS-free generation”. The objective was to draw from the deliberations at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) which had concluded in Washington, DC the previous week, and localize the topic within a South African context.
It was well attended by HIVHIV/AIDS experts and advocates, as well as teachers, parents, school learners and university students, and followed a similar event hosted by the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg on July 26.
Dr. Mary Fanning, who heads the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in South Africa, delivered welcome remarks which were followed by a video of various speakers at the International AIDS Conference. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to hear feedback from virtual panelist, Chermaine Thokoane, Program Coordinator at the Center for the Study of AIDS (CSA), speaking via Skype from AIDS 2012.
The panel included Lerato Lebona who is a training coordinator for the Future Leaders @ Work, a volunteer program of the CSA that supports students in their training and wider experiences in the context of HIV and AIDS.
Hilda Marigna from Centers for Disease Control (CDC), also a member of the discussion panel, said that she was worried about the danger of presenting medical male circumcision as a cure for HIV/AIDS and stressed the importance of continuing to use condoms after circumcision. “Medical male circumcision is not a magic bullet. We need to build in very strong prevention messages,” she said.
The question and answer session provided the participants with an opportunity to comment on the issues raised by the panel and the speakers from AIDS 2012. A young person in the audience spoke about the challenge that homosexual youths face because of stigma associated with their sexual preference and consequent reluctance to go to clinics to get information about sexual health. Lebona responded by saying that society is “suffering from heteronormativity” where people “ are more concerned about who you’re having sex with and not how you’re having it” which should is the real issue.
Lucky Metsing, a parent from Orange Farm, Johannesburg and beneficiary of the PEPFAR funded CDC program, Families Matter, said he was grateful that the program teaches them how to have honest communications with their children. “They are teaching us to be best friends with our children because that’s how the world influences them,” said Metsing.
Some responses on how to take the conversation forward suggested that the methods used for distributing printed HIV/AIDS information means it did not always reach its intended audience. One of the learners suggested the using slot boxes at schools, whereby learners could write down their thoughts or questions, put them into slot boxes, and receive anonymous responses from their life orientation teachers during lesson time.
Lerato Lebona, Future Leaders @ Work, stressed the importance of “meeting the youth where they are at” including the use of mobile phones and social networking platforms to arm young people with information.