HIV/AIDS is still a prevalent issue in South Africa. Although the country has been fighting this disease for over a decade, it is still widespread and education around the disease is of highest concern. During Trading Live Week, the Raphael Centre in partnership with Knysna NGO Mad about Art spoke on the importance of sexual health education for young South Africans in Grahamstown.
In a workshop held at the Raphael Centre, Phumeza Mdingi from Mad about Art spoke about working with children in understanding the emotional life after diagnosis as HIV+. She mostly discussed her work in reference to the project the NGO undertook called the “Rainbow of Hope.”
“‘AIDS fatigue’ leads many young people to ignore traditional schools-based HIV education,” stated the Mad about Art page, “Our programme aims to reduce the impact of HIV on vulnerable children through a structured programme of expressional art, participatory learning and narrative therapy.”
Through this project, children in the community collaborated in producing artwork in large panels which represent the different stages of coming to terms with an HIV+ status, receiving information about HIV and moving away from the discrimination of others in their community.
“With information and understanding the confidence grows and the partner in life was found and obstacles overcome,” said Mdingi when explaining a specific panel.
This project was exhibited in Toronto, London, and Cape Town and is now on display at an ARV clinic in Knysna.
Mdingi, in partnership with the Raphael Centre has set up an extension of this project in Grahamstown and hopes that it will have as positive effect.
“I want to make a difference here in Grahamstown and work with young artists,” said Mdingi.
Following the explanation of this project, Ntombizodwa Goje of the Raphael Centre spoke about her experience of discovering and living with HIV in 2003. Her experience supplemented the emotions as asset down by the project.
“In those days they thought that it was people who were sleeping around, we had a fear of I’m not going to get it because I have one partner,” explained Goje, “This is a mistake because you never know; The virus is just a name you will never know by looking at that person.”
She detailed her experience and acknowledged that she was fortunate to have the support of her mother and it was this support and help from the Raphael centre that helped her move beyond the depression and fear that follows
“There was no counselling for us then, in those days it was very difficult for us for those who tested then,” she said.
This kind of support is sorely needed among communities. Both the Raphael Centre and Mad about Art stated that they struggle to garner the support of the parents of the children that they work with.
“The biggest challenge is when we have the big events it’s only the children who come and the parents don’t come,” said Mdingi “The events are to raise awareness so we have been discussing how to get the parents to come.”
Through projects such as these the youth of communities around South Africa can gain a deeper understanding of a virus that is widely known but only basically understood.