Launch of Malangeni Hub of Hope in OR Tambo

South African Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, supported by THC PPPrev leadership, officially launched the Malangeni Hub of Hope on Thursday, 26 October in Lusikisiki in OR Tambo.

PPPrev Director Jenny Mcloughlin, OR Tambo Regional Manager Luzuko Tosh and PPPrev Technical Advisor Thobeka Mchunu represented TB HIV Care.

The event introduced the Hub of Hope to the Malangeni community as a safe space for adolescents and youth (both in and out of school) with services including behaviour change sessions, risk assessments, psychosocial support, biomedical services and intensified economic strengthening.

TB HIV Care has rolled out Hubs of Hope in 20 supported clusters to take services directly to communities as “ïsibhedlela kubantu”.

The DREAMS programme partners with the Departments of Health, Social Development and Education to tackle social ills in communities, and the implementation of community-based services is a response to the rising statistics of teenage pregnancy and the high rate of HIV infections among adolescents and young people.

Dr Dhlomo said, “We are here because there is a rise in teenage pregnancy. I am charging you to have a plan about your future, choose abstinence and finish school to achieve better outcomes for your life.”

The Hub of Hope links adolescents and youth to adolescent and youth-friendly services (AYFS) located at the Malangeni Clinic, which is one of the provincial primary health care clinics in the OR Tambo district. It is located at Ingquza Hill Municipality in Malangeni.

“We encourage young people to utilise the AYFS facilities. This shows that they are responsible for their future; therefore, when they go to the facility to access the services, they should not be chased away because this facility is for them”, added Dr Dhlomo.

In addition, the Malangeni Hub of Hope aims to provide access to industrial skills development courses and leadership to support local adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in becoming economically empowered through securing employment or starting up small businesses.

“The Malangeni Hub of Hope is unique because of its location at the Chief Mjoji Palace. This shows the commitment of Malangeni’s traditional leadership to HIV prevention efforts and to change the lives of adolescents and youth in Malangeni.”, added Jenny Mcloughlin, Programme  Director: PPPrev/PrEP.

Campaign to end teenage pregnancy launched in eThekwini

TB HIV Care, in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality, launched the ‘0% Learner Pregnancy’ campaign on 17 August 2023. The school-based campaign was officially launched by the eThekwini Municipality Mayor, His Worship Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda, at Isolemamba High School in Durban.

The initiative follows a spike in teenage pregnancy statistics in KwaZulu-Natal, which reported over 26 000 teenage pregnancies between December 2022 and April 2023.

The initiative seeks to combat teenage and learner pregnancies by fostering an environment that empowers young girls to stay in school until Matric. This launch is a collaborative commitment between TB HIV Care and the eThekwini Municipality to create a positive impact in the lives of learners.

The well-attended launch was led by the priority populations prevention (PPPrev) eThekwini management team that spearheaded the campaign. During the event, Ntombifuthi Luthuli said, “KZN reported 26 515 pregnancies of girls aged 10-19 from December 2022 to April 2023. Of those, 1 254 were aged 14 years or younger. The eThekwini district reported most pregnancies compared to other districts, and the PPPrev eThekwini team decided to launch this initiative to reduce the number of pregnancies.”

The SABC reported that teenage pregnancy is one of the main contributing factors to the high rate of school dropouts. Therefore, this initiative also aligns with the DREAMS comprehensive HIV prevention approach to keep girls in school so they can complete their secondary education.

The PPPrev team and the schools within their allocated clusters identified peer ambassadors in the two schools (Isolemamba and Masibambane High Schools) in Nsimibini, who are learner representatives from each grade. The learners are from grade 8 to grade 11 who were trained to become role models in their schools and support the learners in their respective grades to ensure that there is no pregnancy in their schools”, added Luthuli.

The campaign has placed a strong focus on empowering learners with agricultural resources to end food insecurity in communities where we are implementing the DREAMS Programme.

“Agricultural resources were donated to the schools as learners indicated during the dialogue that was held prior to the launch that they engage in sexual activities because they support their families. The schools will be supporting learners to start gardens so that vegetables are sent to those families in need”, explained Luthuli.

According to the World Health Organization, “Every year, an estimated 21 million girls aged 15–19 years in developing regions become pregnant, and approximately 12 million of them give birth.”

The campaign will also educate learners on family planning and contraceptives as a prevention method. This initiative will be implemented in all thirty clusters that the DREAMS programme is implemented in within the in eThekwini district.

“All women and girls at risk of an unintended pregnancy have a right to access emergency contraception, and these methods should be routinely included within all national family planning programmes”, highlights WHO.

TB/HIV Care: Safeguarding the young women of South Africa

Photo Credit: Community Media Trust

TB/HIV Care’s vision is clear: to empower all communities (wherever they are and whoever they might be) to be healthy and free of TB and HIV. This includes high-risk or vulnerable populations, for example, sex workers, inmates and people who inject drugs. Noone can be left behind.

One of South Africa’s most vulnerable groups is adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). In fact, UNAIDS tells us that adolescent girls and young women are eight times more likely to be living with HIV than young men of the same age. Eight times . It is clear that if South Africa has any hope of stopping the spread of HIV, we need to safeguard our young women.

TB/HIV Care is rolling out three activities specifically designed to look after the health and well-being of SA’s adolescent girls and young women.

1. DREAMS. An AIDS-free future for young women

The first is DREAMS. An international effort aimed at ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa, DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. Everything we could hope for the young women in our communities.

Together with our funders, PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Nike Foundation and Girl Effect and other implementing partners , TB/HIV Care is rolling out DREAMs initiatives in South Africa as we work towards an AIDS-free future for our girls and women.

These strategies include:
• Targeting our HIV prevention programmes and health care interventions at AGYW, their families, their sexual partners (e.g. education around Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision) and their larger communities
• Developing guidelines and projects around Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
• Interventions to protect girls from coerced or forced sex and to change community norms, behaviour and beliefs.

2. Stepping Stones. 11 Steps to confident, healthy adolescents

The second is Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones (the very embodiment of the values of DREAMS) is run in 75 schools across the country. It has been implemented in the City of Cape Town (including Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain) and uMgungundlovu, and, in partnership with Community Media Trust, the City of Tshwane, and the City of Johannesburg metropoles.

The programme is made up of a series of 11 workshops. It is designed to promote sexual health, boost self-esteem and foster healthy relationships between young women and men.

There are many programmes aimed at safer sex and protection against HIV, but what makes Stepping Stones unique is its focus on gender equity, communication and empowerment.

It tackles a range of topics, including:
• What is love?
• The difference between happy and unhappy sexual relationships
• The joys and problems of sex
• Gender violence
• Caring for people with HIV or affected by HIV
• Assertiveness
• Communication (partners and community).

3. Families Matter. Developing trust and open communication

Families Matter is an evidence-based intervention which trains parents and guardians of pre-adolescent children (aged 9-12). This age group has been identified as a critical group to address with regards to education on sexual health and behaviour.

The aim of the programme is to enhance protective parenting practices to help reduce sexual risk amongst adolescents. It helps parents develop a positive and open approach to communication, one which fosters trust between parent and child.

Parents who participate in the Families Matter workshops are required to attend five weekly sessions, followed by a follow up session which takes place 6-18 months after training to reinforce key messages and discuss experiences.

The need for ongoing support

TB/HIV Care recognises that keeping young girls and women HIV and AIDS-free is absolutely critical – and an urgent and sustained response is required. We’ll continue to support and empower women to make the very best decisions for themselves, their bodies, their health, their relationships and their future.