World AIDS Day: children bear the brunt of irresponsible behaviour
The Western Cape Government remains committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and have commemorated World AIDS Day under the theme of “zero stigma and discrimination”.
The Department of Social Development bears the difficult task of dealing with some of the serious social problems created by this pandemic. One of the most devastating social consequences we deal with is the effect HIV/AIDS has at the family level.
The consequences of risky sexual behaviour and the deaths from the HIV/AIDS pandemic have affected the most vulnerable segments of our society, specifically children. An indication of the vulnerability of children is the finding of Census 2011 that 19 645 children are reported to have lost both their mother and father, many of them have died from AIDS related illnesses.
This is a serious challenge, as invariably the care of the children becomes the responsibility of extended relatives, such as grandparents, and in cases where there is no family, these children are forced to grow up in child-headed households.
There are 3 482 child headed households in the province, and these children, more often than not, live in dire poverty. The percentage of children living in income poverty (that is, households with monthly per capita income less than R604) in the province was 31.8% in 2011.
It is critical that parents take responsibility for their behaviour, and they must get tested regularly so they know their HIV status. They must practice safe sex and remain faithful to their partners. If they are HIV positive they must take their antiretroviral (ARV) medication every day. The consequence of not doing is placing a costly toll on society, with our children bearing the greatest cost.
If we are to turn this tide, and improve the quality of life for all children, we need to adopt a whole-of-society approach. This approach involves all spheres of government, including building partnerships with the private sector, NGOs, communities, and individuals.
The Department of Social Development will continue to play its part in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but more specifically protecting the children affected by it.
We have already begun implementing the Children’s Act which sets the norms and standards for the care of all children, including the more vulnerable ones. The department spends just under R570-million in support of children and families, including assisting them deal with the effects of HIV/AIDS.
As a department we have nearly doubled the number of social workers in the last five years, from 388 in 2009 to 777 in 2014. In addition we co-fund 80 social work supervisors, 700 social workers, and 199 social auxiliary posts in the NGO sector, among which are our NGO partners that specialize in child welfare.
However the success of these initiatives relies on community efforts, continued partnerships, and parents taking responsibility for own sexual health. We can only create a safe and enabling environment of opportunities for our children if we work, ‘Better Together’.
Minister Albert Fritz
083 307 0192
Spokesperson for Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Developement
Western Cape Government
7th floor, 14 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, 8000
Tel : (021) 483 9217
Cell : 083 280 9199
Email : Sihle.Ngobese@westerncape.gov.za