A project to address the causes of high HIV infection rates in three Nelson Mandela Bay wards has been launched.
The project, launched at the Motherwell Sports Centre, kicked off on Thursday in reaction to information supplied by local health department clinics. The wards being looked at are:
- Walmer (Ward 4) with a prevalence rate of 15.1%;
- Central (Ward 5) with a prevalence rate of 26%; and
- Motherwell (Ward 58) with a prevalence rate of 23%.
In another study published in July by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers found that 62% of prostitutes in Port Elizabeth were HIV-positive, with 12% being diagnosed for the first time when researchers offered them tests.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the municipality would be part of a multi-stakeholder programme, Operation Masinyange, to address the HIV prevalence in these wards. This was a community-based model.
“It works on the principle that HIV/Aids is not a health issue only but is fuelled by numerous social and economic conditions,” Mniki said.
“The community must respond to this epidemic and find ways of dealing with social ills.”
Fikile Boyce, from the Treatment Action Campaign, said the programme worked on the creation of a “social lab” to drive the implementation of HIV programmes, with the ward councillor being the convener.
“In Walmer, high rates of unemployment are driving women to resort to prostitution. It is also the case in Central [where] drug use and prostitution are driving the spread of HIV.”
“In Motherwell, we are seeing a lot of people from rural parts of the Eastern Cape who do not know how to prevent the spread of HIV.”
They are also then exposed to drug use.”
Boyce said they were delighted the new social labs would see other departments that could join in the fight against HIV/Aids become involved.