Match Rights with Responsibility in the HIV/AIDS Crisis
Rev Kosky, Rev Sebe, and Mr Keck of the Southern Cross Ministries;
Councillor Fienies Mayoral Committee Member for Health;
Dr Ivan Toms, Director of City Health Services;
Members of the Community.
Today marks an important step in our fight against HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
As Dr Toms has described, the facility we are opening in partnership with Southern Cross Ministries will help us provide health care for another 6000 young people here in Khayelitsha.
The importance of this initiative is clear. HIV/AIDS is affecting our youth more severely than any other age group. In fact, it is placing an entire generation at risk. It is robbing children of their parents. And it is robbing us, as a city and a nation, of our future.
In Khayelitsha, one in three pregnant women is HIV positive. And many are still little more than children themselves.
Of course the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in our communities is a serious problem in its own right. It undermines the family unit, which is the foundation of a healthy society. And it usually ruins young peoples' chances of empowering themselves through education and employment.
I am glad to say that the Youth Health Care Centre in Site B has already been working for some time to address these problems. In particular, I salute Dr Toms for the work he has been doing in this area for decades.
Up until recently the clinic here provided pre-ARV support and care to 800 HIV positive people below the age of 25. It has also been offering counselling, pregnancy tests, and sexual guidance. However, it did not even come close to meeting the needs of the community. The building in which it was housed only had two rooms.
The partnership we have entered into has provided a purpose-built facility that will go some way toward solving this problem. In so doing, it will help to address the huge gap that is yet to be filled in Government's Health Services to poorer communities, especially in regard to HIV/AIDS. While we still have a long way to go, the new facility will ensure that we can help more of our youth to take control of their lives.
This is a crucial point. Government has a responsibility to assist where it can in the fight against HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy. We take that responsibility very seriously. Cape Town was the first place in South Africa to role out ARVs, and we continue to do so as rapidly as possible. But Government, donors, and faith based organisations do not carry the only responsibility in this struggle. If fact, no matter how much we uphold our responsibility, unless individuals take responsibility too, we will not succeed. Unless we start a national debate about shared responsibility, and particularly individual responsibility, we will never resolve the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa.
We are rightly proud of our rights-based culture, which has been fostered under the Constitution. But so far we have failed to institute a responsibility culture. We must build that culture.
History will judge us on how effective the measures we have taken to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS have been. If this project can bring rights and responsibility together, it will be a truly important landmark. I am happy to see that it does provide the appropriate guidance and medical assistance to children, adolescents, and adults.
This and other Youth Centres do recognise the fact that we must match medical attention with the necessary emotional and institutional support, and, hopefully, discipline. They recognise that education is not just about supplying information, but also actively encouraging a greater sense of responsibility in our young people. These centres also provide a venue for valuable pilot projects such as the Assess, Consent, Test and Support (ACTS) programme for young people with STDs.
This programme encourages all patients who approach the Centre with STDs to be tested for HIV as well. By so doing, it aims to help us identify HIV positive young people more quickly and encourage them to take the necessary steps to avoid spreading the virus.
But again, people have to choose to take these steps, otherwise this program will not succeed. We will also be rolling this programme out at a similar centre in Site C.
Through initiatives like these the youth health care centres will help us work toward building a healthier community in Khayelitsha.
There are, of course, also lessons for us as a City in this project. The successful launch of this Centre through a partnership offers us a model for how to continue addressing our health challenges. In the partnership we are celebrating today, the City benefits from being able to rent a purpose-built youth clinic at only R100 a year. At the same time, Southern Cross Ministries will benefit from the multi-purpose centre and recreational facilities that will soon be built onto the Youth Centre.
On behalf of the people of Khayelitsha and Cape Town I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Reverend Kelly Kosky of Southern Cross for his outstanding initiative and dedication. Your efforts have been central to this successful project, and will change many young lives for the better. The City looks forward to continuing its positive working relationship with you and the Ministry in the years ahead. I hope that your example will encourage others to come forward and start similar projects with the City, especially in the private sector. I also hope that it will give renewed strength and faith to those who already have.
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