NGO tackles HIV in Mangaung

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Botshelo Centre Care workers Palesa Johannes (left) and Nthabiseng Ralisa (right) re-enacted a scene informing onlookers in the audience on rapid tests and what to expect from HIV testing stations. PHOTO: PULANE CHOANE

Plays have over the ages proven their power as an agent of social change and information sharing. This was no different on Friday as the Caleb Motshabi and Mafora communities were taught about HIV/AIDS through a powerful play that juxtaposed the lives of two young women who were both infected by the illness.
In the illustration, one woman was diagnosed early and was able to receive counselling and make the necessary lifestyle changes. The other woman, however, remained ignorant of her situation, taking comfort in traditional and herbal remedies until she met her untimely death.
Organised by the Botshelo Centre, an NGO in Bloemfontein, the play was meant to raise awareness among young women and mothers on the issues surrounding HIV/Aids and how one can still live a long and healthy life, despite what many still consider a death sentence.
Apart from the play, the NGO organised a power-packed programme which tackled issues such as transactional relationships, use of condoms, abstinence and stigmas surrounding the diseases, which are fuelled by members of the community and sometimes the families of those infected.
Owner of the Botshelo Centre, Boitshoko Mekwa, said while this narrative is one that has been heard all too many times, it continues to affect the lives of many, despite the widespread information on the illness and how it can either be prevented or treated.
The NGO also had a candlelight memorial which remembered those who have died from HIV/AIDS, while those who are living with the illness and those who are yet to discover that they are infected with it, were also remembered.
Young mothers and women who were in attendance were also encouraged to make use of the registered nurse who was on site to test those who wanted to find out their HIV status. At the end of the day’s programme, young children from needy homes in these two communities were given food parcels, while more names were taken down ahead of the next visit.

Founder and manager of Botshelo Centre, Boitshoko Mekwa

Caregiver at Botshelo Centre, Palesa Johannes, said “We lacked resources and had to rely on many people for help. But I believe that the programme went well and we’ve made progress with changing the minds of many people, particularly young people, on how the illness works and how it can be beaten.”
Meanwhile, Mekwa explained that it was initially her intention to have this event on 1 December, which is commemorated annually as World Aids Day. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we could not have the event on that day but I still felt like it’s important we have this event regardless of the date as it is an issue that continues to affect young people,” Mekwa said.
She intends on having similar events in the near future, with some of these tackling other issues related to health and appeals to all patrons and companies willing to donate to her NGO to email her at boitshokomekwa@yahoo.com. Alternatively, she can be reached at 072-012-4333.

Pulane Choane
pulane@centralmediagroup.co.za