By: Lucky Molefe, Mamelodi CRS, Pretoria, SA
World AIDS Day is an internationally commemorated event. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.
The Synexus Stanza clinical research site, as part of the Mamelodi community and working with various non-profit organisations, supported the World AIDS Day 2017 event. The message emphasised at the event was about strengthening HIV education and encouraging the uptake of community HIV testing.
The main objective of collaborating with local organisations and clinics is to strengthen existing working relationships and to expand the Synexus footprint in the community. The World AIDS Day event was organized in collaboration with twenty local organizations; each organization sent a representative to attend weekly meetings to plan for, as well as mobilize attendance for, the event.
The Brothers for Life and Right to Care provided HIV testing services at the event. Twenty participating stakeholders came from important service providers such as Youth employment agencies, Harambee, Stanza Development, Godisang Skills Development Centre, Health services, Drug and Alcohol Abuse services, Ward Based outreach teams, Computer school, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), HIV educators, health care workers, CAB, MAMS radio, National Development Agency, and Circle of life .
Structure of agenda
There were twenty (20) information stalls from various service providers including two HIV testing service providers. At the main gate entrance, all attendees completed a general registration. The programme was divided into two parts. Part A catered to entertainment activities by local artists. This part of the programme was strategically created to allow people to be seated before the start of the Part B formal proceedings. The formal proceedings of the day started with prayer by Prophet Sipho, followed by a hymn performed by the Mamelodi Salvation choir, and then a candle lighting led by Synexus Operational manager Ms. Deidre Traynor. Bobby Mohanoe from TAC gave a talk on the origin and meaning of Candle Lighting. Dr. Vathi Papu-Zamxaka, Head of Patient Engagement, spoke on behalf of Synexus. Other speakers included a motivational talk by a person living with HIV (PLWA)1, and Reverend Thobejane and Dr. Philemon Mahuma of the Synexus Community Advisory Board (CAB)2 made presentations on the role of the CAB and the significance of World AIDS Day. The Synexus clinic manager provided an inspirational message of support and the role of the clinic, especially with implementing the Universal Testing and Treatment (UTT) approach by Department of Health. New HIV prevention tools being researched, such as HIV vaccines, were presented by Dr. Sheena Kotze regarding the HIV vaccine study known as Imbokodo or HVTN 705/HPX2008. Refreshments were provided to close the event. The community expressed satisfaction with our hospitality.
- This touched so many souls because she reflected on how she got infected with HIV within marriage, and how she got the courage to live her life to the fullest while raising children after her husband passed on.
- Community Advisory Board (CAB) is an independent group within the clinical research organisation playing an advisory role to the researchers on behalf of the community and research participants.
The event aimed to reach about five hundred community members, with emphasis on youth attendance. According to the registration figures, there were six hundred (600) people reached with a great mix of youth attendees. 55 people registered at the HVTN stall about the Imbokodo study, and two people followed up by attending initial visits at the site the next week. The Global Studies stall registered 63 new people for our database for recruiting future studies.
The event was promoted on weekly broadcasts on MAMS community radio as part of the mobilisation strategy by Synexus doctors focusing on HIV and AIDS topics. On the day of the event, the Daily Sun newspaper and MAMS radio conducted interviews with key Synexus staff and other organisations representatives during the proceedings.
This event was an opportunity for younger and older community members to have first-hand information on HIV prevalence and incidence in South Africa and how each individual can a play a role in bringing about much needed change in combating the scourge of HIV. The introduction of HIV vaccine research to the community was an eye opener. A talk by a person living and surviving with HIV caught the attention of the audience. For the people who did not know about Synexus and Harambee activities, it was an opportunity to register for opportunities geared toward youth empowerment such as internships, learnerships, computer literacy, etc. Amongst many activities that were highlighted was the artistic flair exhibited by our Mamelodi youth. The need to support growth of domestic talent was also highlighted. The plenary team agreed to host an evaluation meeting as part of improving our future events. Synexus is honoured by the support and collaboration from our community stakeholders.
* Lucky Molefe is the Clinical Awareness Manager at the Mamelodi CRS in Pretoria, South Africa.