HOLDING a female condom in her hand, Gauteng MEC for Health Ntombi Mekgwe looked at a young woman breastfeeding her baby. “Do you know what this is?” she asked.
“It is a female condom,” the young woman answered.
“Do you know how to use it?” the MEC asked.
Giggling shyly, the young mother replied in the negative and said she had never used one.
Ripping open the wrapping and exposing the dangling condom, Mekgwe looked the woman in the eye and explained to her how to use it.
“It will prevent illnesses,” she said.
Mekgwe and other healthcare workers were at the Motsoaledi informal settlement in Soweto, where they had pitched tents on the sportsground.
The tent offered immunisation and HIV/Aids, diabetes and hypertension testing, among other things. The event was part of the Health Department’s drive to bring healthcare closer to the people.
Yesterday’s event coincided with Child Protection Week.
Mekgwe had come across the woman, who is from Mozambique and whose baby had not been immunised, on a walkabout in the area.
The sportsground was engulfed in the sounds of bawling babies as hypodermic needles pierced their flesh.
Old people, some using walking sticks, were also queueing to check their high blood pressure and diabetes.
There were also young women who had joined the queue to check their HIV status.
Victor Komane, 56, was among those who had come to check their high blood pressure levels for the first time. Previously, he had checked only 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,” he said.
“But if I met a woman and we were to sleep without a condom, we would have to get tested first.”
While people were taught how to take care of their health and use the services rendered by the department of health, Mekgwe indicated that it would be a futile exercise if their living conditions did not improve as well.
The settlement’s residents live in shacks made of corrugated iron, making them cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. They also use paraffin, some of which is diluted with spirits and petrol, when they cook and boil water, meaning they inhale its harmful fumes on a regular basis.
Rivulets of dirty water run through the area and an unbearable smell pervades the air, all of which prompted Mekgwe to say she could not tell if the water was sewage or something else.
The MEC said the municipality would have to come on board if the department’s intentions of bringing health to the people was to become successful.