South Africa: Lighthouse Foundation Reaches Villagers in South Africa's North West Province (March 2009)

HIV/AIDS workers took advantage of an outdoor event held in South Africa's North West Province to educate the crowd about HIV/AIDS. Armed with clipboards, these Lighthouse Foundation employees walked among festival attendees urging them to get tested for HIV/AIDS and to receive home visits to learn more about the disease.

"Men, the ways of our grandfathers and fathers are past. We have to change," HIV/AIDS activist Tshepo Monyuku said to a group gathered at the outdoor festival. "If we men have multiple partners and our partners have multiple partners, then we will spread the disease and kill ourselves, our women and our children."

The Lighthouse Foundation - a local partner supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Jericho, South Africa - employs 28 people who work to tackle HIV/AIDS in 21 villages in South Africa's North West Province. The Foundation, founded and led by Tshepo and Nkele Ditsele, employs education and behavioral change methods to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

While staffers admit it can be a long and tough process to address problems and ingrained behaviors such as multiple sexual partners, poverty and lack of job skills that plague these villages, they never stop trying.

Lighthouse employees visit clinical waiting rooms to educate women about HIV/AIDS. They visit remote villages to gather statistics pertaining to HIV/AIDS and raise awareness about the disease. And they explain to their neighbors how the virus spreads.

However, the Foundation does not solely focus on women and children. Recognizing that this is an inclusive epidemic, Lighthouse actively engages South African men in the fight against HIV/AIDS. To reach a male population that spends long hours working at distant mines or cities and afterhours at local bars, Lighthouse workers organize men's forums. These forums give men a venue to talk honestly, openly and across generations about HIV/AIDS. The participants' age ranges from 21 to 75 years.

As a result of its achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Lighthouse Foundation is now hoping to address cross-sectoral issues. The Foundation has plans to buy a plot of land, drill a well and plant vegetables in order to provide better nutrition for communities. And although not a fixture in their organization yet, Lighthouse is developing methods to teach income generation skills, such as masonry, dress making, beadwork and carpentry, to young people.

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