Visiting HIVSA Johannesburg

Our third post covering the recent trip of Orange Babies founders Baba Sylla and John Kattenberg, to all the projects in South Africa, Zambia and Namibia (written by Baba).

Day 7

HIVSA – Soweto

At 6.30 in the morning we wake up and open the curtains. It’s still pitch-dark outside. We can’t see anything and we only hear the sound of the cars. I would prefer to go back to bed. We take a quick shower. John is talking a lot and I do not feel like answering. During breakfast John dives into the virtual world of Facebook while I enjoy the quietness and the coffee. We get into the car and we are off to HIVSA (HIV South Africa), a project we support with Philips and I notice that I am looking forward to this visit. We spend as little time as possible in the office to start our day on location as quickly as possible.

John Kattenberg
At 9.30 am we arrive at the “Itireleng” clinic, where Sibongile is waiting for us. She has been working for Orange Babies for 16 years. Today, 2 pregnant women and 12 newborn babies (and obviously, with their mothers) visit the clinic. Catherine de Lay, the counselor for the I-Act program, takes the floor. “We are happy to welcome our partners, Orange Babies. We trust Orange Babies completely and have invited them to this closed meeting; a get-together for HIV positive people. Who would like to share her story with them?” It takes a while before someone starts talking. But once the first mother speaks out, one after the other starts telling her story. All success stories, healthy babies without HIV… HIV positive, but happy mothers. This is why we are doing what we are doing!

The impact of the programme is extremely visible. The goal of the I-act programme is to give confidence to pregnant women who are HIV positive. To give them strength by providing them with HIV knowledge, medication during their pregnancy, giving birth in the clinic, breastfeeding, medication for the baby, the importance of staying loyal to the HIV-therapy etc. But also by the knowledge that they can have an active life and make plans for the future despite their HIV infection. Orange Babies supports the I-act programme in 8 clinics in Soweto. An excellent programme.

Next on our list is a visit to the Tladi Entokozweni Center. In this center grandparents work for the benefit of the community. Because everybody has lost somebody to aids, these fantastic people decided to introduce a HIV prevention campaign to the community. More than 40 people were present carefully listening to the presentation held by 1 grandmother and 1 grandfather.

They kept repeating their key message:

  1. Everybody has to get tested in order to find out his or her status. This is free of charge.
  2. If you are tested positive, we can do something about it. We will make sure that you will get access to medication. This is also free of charge.
  3. Once you start the therapy, you have to stay committed to taking your medication.

A lot of useful information was shared with the spectators and they showed their appreciation for Orange Babies, the 17 years of dedication.

Many of the participants want to do volunteer work for us. I thank the grandfathers and grandmothers and tell them that I believe that because of their effort the programme has become more efficient. It is because of them that we are able to reach people who we would normally never meet. They have a special place in the African society.

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