A push against the spread of HIV in Informal Settlement communities

Various NGOs, Stakeholders and Diepsloot community members turned out at Diepsloot Youth Centre as Witkoppen Health and Welfare Clinic hosted a research dissemination event on 15 February.

Witkoppen is a non-profit organization providing comprehensive primary health care and social services to mostly impoverished residents informal settlements in the northern parts of Johannesburg. It has been part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge (DREAMS IC) to bring change in poor societies.

The aim of the event was to engage the Diepsloot community and share with them the results of the research intervention of HIV self test, Linkage to care of their sexual partners, said the Witkoppen Research Data Manager Lilian Ngwako.

“The intervention was successful in delivering the HIV self test kits,” she said. “It was also successful in getting men to test. HIV self test can be a way of reaching men who have not tested and also achieving the 90- 90-90 goals.”

90-90-90 goals is a concept introduced by United Nations’ programme on HIV/AIDS in 2013. The idea is that by 2020, 90% of the people who are HIV positive will be diagnosed, 90% of people who are diagnosed will be on  antiretroviral treatment , and 90% of those who receive antiretroviral treatment will be virally suppressed.

“The research has demonstrated that men have poorer health seeking behaviors as compared to their female counterparts,” Ngwako said. “So the aim was to link and retain them through the male-friendly clinic. We also aimed to educate and mentor HIV negative adolescent girls and young women such that they felt determined to stay HIV free.”

Ngwako added that they are still offering HIV testing in the community and people should look out for their gazebos.

Mixed feelings over sewer upgrade

Cosmo City residents expressed mixed feelings over sewer upgrade amid local authorities’ response to the persistent sewage crisis.

 Since last year, Cosmo City residents have been attending a series of meetings alongside representatives from the City of Joburg Water, Building Control, Pikitup, Johannesburg Metro Police Department and other stakeholders, as an attempt to address the deteriorating situation.

In January 2019, Ward 100 Councillor Mapula Mosito confirmed that the Department of Environment had given the City of Johannesburg a go ahead with the sewer project which has since started. The aim of the upgrade, according to local authorities, is to permanently end the sewer problems, which have been of much concern in the community.

“We understand the project has gotten underway,” said a resident Malusi Mkhize. “We hope if they upgrade the main sewer pipe there will be an increase in the flow of the sewage. It is a good move. Let us see if this will permanently stop the sewer problems in Cosmo City.”

While some residents are happy with the proceedings, others are not.

“To me, there is no sign that there is any progress,” said Melinda Matlou of extension6. “In our extension, things are still the same. We are always inhaling bad air in that area, and it seems to be deteriorating.”

The sewage spills have corroded South Africa Road, Matlou added, causing bumper to bumper traffic. According to local authorities, in order to upgrade the pipes, there is need to block some of the pipes, and this has deepened the crisis especially in extension6.

 The main sewer pipe, which has been frequently bursting in extension 6, is expected to be upgraded from 330 mm to 400mm.

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