MARAPONG — On Thursday 30 August, Christian Ministers Fraternal of SA, held an HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) awareness drive at SAVF Centre in Marapong Ext 1.
The event, attended by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community, sex workers, victim empowerment workers and some leaders of religious groups focused on the encouragement of everyone to face the reality behind the HIV and TB scourge, as the two diseases are usually related.
People living with HIV often get TB which can be cured within six months if treated correctly.
According to a 2016 report by the World Health Organisation, 40% of global HIV deaths were due to TB and 60% of South Africans living with HIV were also co-infected with TB.
One of the points that stood out during awareness drive, besides focusing on dismantling the stigma on TB and HIV patients, was the encouragement for church leaders to advise congregants to use protection.
It was stated that having sex before marriage is a sin according to the Bible, but many unmarried couples have intercourse and go to church as well.
One church leader dwelt on this matter and said that as much as the bible and churches preach abstinence, it will not help to pretend that the youth is practicing fornication. The amount of unmarried people having children is proof of that.
He said although churches never discuss condoms, it will help if healthcare providers that attend church be given the opportunity to talk to congregants about safe sex.
Dolph Raditoro Belle, Coordinator for the LGBTIQ community, spoke about the importance of continuously using chronic medication as prescribed by healthcare providers so that a patient can live a healthy lifestyle.
Belle said it is normal that medication can give patients side-effects and he called on relatives of patients to fully support them, adding that consistency is vital to getting better.
“There are sad situations where HIV positive patients throw their medication away because they do not like how their body reacts to it. We must also encourage the use of protection at all times, especially for sex workers. We always hear that some sex workers fall into the trap of clients who want to pay them extra money for unprotected sex. They tend to fall for that but the reality is that they end up being infected with HIV,” he said.
Belle also touched on Multi Drug Resistant TB, which can develop resistance to the drugs used to cure the disease.
The other talking point focused on men who do not go for HIV tests but rely on their partners’ tests for their status.
The drive also looked at dealing with old idioms that seem to suggest that men can be with any woman they want anytime, labelling them as problematic.
The coordinator of the awareness drive, Mr Sejanamane Mashilo, says discrimination against chronic patients is still a big problem, thus they kick-started this drive.
“The other big challenge is condom distribution in religious communities at large, which might be seen as encouraging fornication by some.
“As Christian Ministers Fraternal of SA we realised that the problems in Marapong escalated with time and there is still ignorance regarding TB and HIV,” he said.
The Christian Ministers Fraternal of South Africa says in future they wish to have a larger audience and to invite companies that operate within Lephalale to partake in the awareness to plant the seed of knowledge within the community of Marapong.