South Africans focus on HIV/AIDS epidemic

Two men from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, visited the College on Saturday to educate a group of students about the still prevalent epidemic of HIV/AIDS in their country.

Sbu Ngubane and Mdu “Justice” Msomi, managers of the Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa (PPASA), fielded questions posed by members of the College, as well as students from nearby universities.

“The communication (means) a lot to us,” Msomi said. “(It means) that there are people who care about the young people in South Africa.”

One of the main subjects of discussion was what the College community can do to aid those who are suffering in South Africa.

“If every (College) student was aware of the problems that other cultures face, they would be able to improve the world here, even if it’s just in little increments,” Kathy Loglisci, junior English and secondary education major, said.

PPASA is constantly fighting for improvements. The problem, Msomi said, is a combination of extreme poverty and poor education, not a lack of values and self-respect.

Ngubane agreed. “We need to understand that it is not their fault,” he said. “It is the situation that forces them.”

Ngubane said he believes that the development of youth-friendly clinics, where teenagers can go to discuss personal issues with peers, is an important way to educate the South African population.

Msomi added that the new collaboration between traditional tribal healers and the South African Department of Health, as well as the support of non-government organizations, is boosting the circulation of HIV/AIDS information and health resources.

Msomi said that already, results can be seen. He said that due to a health education campaign started in 1999, which is aimed at young, HIV-negative people, many teens in South Africa are learning the facts about reproductive issues and are making healthy choices when it comes to sexual relations and contraceptive use.

“What surprised me most was their focus on the youth, whereas here, it feels like it is hard for the students to unite for something,” Christi Downey, junior women’s and gender studies major, said.

“That’s where we put our hopes – in young people,” Ngubane said. “The young people play a crucial role.”

And by “young people,” he said, he means both males and females, not just women, who are traditionally the targets of sexual health campaigns.

“It’s not just a problem for women,” Matt Richman, senior history and women’s and gender studies major, said.

“Men need to take responsibility for their actions, both in South Africa and the United States. Also, men have an obligation to support issues like this.”

Ngubane said that although informing young people about the dangers of and myths about HIV is difficult due to limited funding, the PPASA must never give up, because they are “planting seeds for a better future for their generation.”

“We know where we are coming from and we know our goals,” he said. “Although we have little resources, we have hopes that, one day, we will reach them.”