HOLDING a female condom in her hand, Gauteng MEC for Health and Social Development Ntombi Mekgwe looked at a young woman breastfeeding her baby.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked her.
“It is a female condom,” the young woman answered.
“Do you know how to use it?”
Giggling shyly, the young mother said she had never used one, and did not know how to use it.
Ripping the wrap open and exposing the dangling condom, Mekgwe looked the young woman in the eye and explained to her how to use the condom. “It will prevent illnesses,” she explained to her.
Mekgwe and health workers were at Motsoaledi informal settlement in Soweto where they had pitched tents on the sports ground and offered immunisations, as well as testing for HIV/Aids, diabetes and hypertension, among other health services.
Mekgwe found a woman from Mozambique who had not had her baby immunised.
There were screams all around from babies as needles pierced their flesh. Old people, some using walking sticks, queued to check their blood pressure and for diabetes. Young women were also in the queue to check their HIV statuses.
Among those wanting to know their blood-pressure levels were Victor Komane, 56, getting his first test. All that he had checked previously was his HIV status.
“They said I am negative. I expected that, though, I live alone and don’t have a woman and don’t want one. I don’t want any illness. If I had to go there (sleep with a woman), I would never do it without a condom, regardless of how beautiful she is.
“That thing (Aids) is not right, I have seen people die from it. But if I met a woman and we were to sleep without a condom, we would have to get tested first,” he said.
While people were taught how to take care of their health and use the services offered by the department of health, Mekgwe indicated that it would be a futile exercise if their living conditions did not improve, as they contributed to ill- health.
People live in shacks that are icy in winter and very hot in summer. They also use paraffin, some of which is diluted with spirits and petrol, leading to the inhalation of harmful fumes. Rivulets of dirty water run through the area and an unbearable smell hangs in the air.
Mekgwe said the City of Joburg would have to come on board if their intention of bringing health to people was to become successful.
“We come here with the intention of healing people, but conditions are not conducive for people to live in. If other things are not sorted out, what we are doing will be in vain.”