loveLife yields positive results in fight against HIV/Aids among young people

Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)

Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 10, 2023


By Joseph Rasethe

Despite all the negative stories we often hear and get to dominate the headlines about a province such as the Eastern Cape, there are equally good news stories that need to be told.

We need to make noise about such stories. These are the kind of stories that touch at heartstrings and indicate to us it’s not all doom and gloom.

Kwa-Nobuhle in Uitenhage, part of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, has such a story to tell. The township’s loveLife Youth Centre, through generous funding from Volkswagen SA, has over the years worked wonders through programmes aimed at shaping and changing young people’s discourse, one life at a time.

Some of the key highlights of the objectives of the centre have been critical aspects such as advocating youth health promotion, and a sticking passion for the New LoveLife Trust (loveLife). Further, there have been, since the opening of the centre, concerted efforts to decrease HIV incidents.

There have also been other interventions, such as work towards the reduction of teenage pregnancies in schools by at least fifty percent, and the other critical work has been towards giving attention to the decrease in school violence, particularly among boys – as part of loveLife’s Boy Child programme.

Kwa-Nobuhle is cited here as it is among the many interventions carried through partnerships with the private sector, and another pivotal stakeholder is the National Department of Health (NDoH).

The NDoH and loveLife’s Framework for Partnership is closely aligned to the national campaign solely focused on youth initiatives, mainly to increase demand and access to healthcare facilities for the youth, increase contraceptive use, including condoms, decrease scourges and ills such as gender-based violence and femicide, alcohol, and drug abuse, which is still prevalent among young people.

Part of the Framework for Partnership was clearly articulated at the recently concluded 11th South African Aids Conference, that there needs to be a reduction of teenage pregnancies, HIV infections, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The reality is that young girls continue to be vulnerable when it comes to unplanned pregnancies, and the exposure to the risk of HIV and STIs. An ideal picture is being sought by stakeholders such as the NDoH, of seeing the of infections brought by the epidemic.

To see this perfect picture, loveLife and other stakeholders (private companies such as mines, foundations, various United Nations agencies, academia, and other government departments) across the length and breadth of South Africa, have been working hard on measures that can be implemented to counter infection risks. This has been done largely through sex education in schools and communities. While these interventions have been driven, what has become clear is that there is a need for an honest perception by adolescents when it comes to behaviours, and how efficient prevention programmes are.

A collaborative research study between loveLife, the Centre for Development Support and the University of Free State found and recommended that: “Adolescent boys find it more difficult than girls to talk about sexual matters.”

It was suggested “that sexual health intervention content could benefit from tailored messaging, though the core content would remain the same for both sexes”.

Further, as part of the recommendations, it was suggested that “interventions should build on the strengths of current prevention messaging systems, such as peer education as done by loveLife since our results showed lower levels of pregnancy at the loveLife schools in our sample”.

The last recommendation was that “sexual health interventions should emphasise STI and HIV testing and treatment, coupled with practices to reduce these infections.”

The above is indicative of how funding for such interventions is critical and should be prudently used if notable movements and achievements are to be seen in the fight against HIV infections among young people.

Funding is drying up – there must be a strong motivation when any kind of funding is applied for, with clear objectives of what needs to be achieved and how the targeted beneficiaries are to be made to see the bigger picture.

In the past twenty-four years, loveLife has worked tremendously across South Africa’s nine provinces with the reduction of HIV infection being part of its apex work.

That continues. It does with the sole aim that we will indeed soon end of the HIV epidemic, though we first must get our hands dirty and bring in young people as critical stakeholders in our decision-making.

* Joseph Rasethe is the Programme Manager at the New LoveLife Trust