Let’s Talk HIV Prevention in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa






Let’s Talk Prevention
Event in Cape Town, South Africa

Date and Time: Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Location: Masiphumelele Community Hall  

The DTHC has been providing services and conducting research in Masiphumelele since 1999. This community, based in the South Peninsular has been the site of a US National Institute of Health funded study within the Collaboration in international Programs in research in AIDS. This highly competitive grant was awarded to the PHRU (James McIntyre- WITS University, Johannesburg) and the DTHC in 2001. The DTHC has previously described an epidemiologic study demonstrating high adult HIV prevalence (23%) and rapidly escalating TB notification rates. Specifically, annual TB notifications have now reached 2000/100,000 in this peri-urban township in Cape Town. Regular household censuses have been performed which have documented that the community has undergone rapid population growth from 5,000 residents in 1996 up to 15,000 residents 2008. This population growth has occurred within well circumscribed boundaries (Fig 1). The community is socially deprived, living in overcrowded, largely informal dwellings, located on demarcated plots serviced with water and sanitation. There is a single health care facility which provides primary medical care to community residents and there is a primary and secondary school. Escalation in TB notification rate has occurred despite a well-implemented national TB control program based on the WHO-DOTS strategy, at the single community clinic that manages all resident TB cases. Routine HIV-testing (with consent) of incident TB cases was introduced in 2002. The combination of delineated boundaries, a well characterized population, centralized TB record keeping with high levels of HIV testing make this population uniquely suited for TB epidemiologic and transmission studies.


The DTHC has established strong community links with an active adult and youth community advisory board, and enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with the City Health Department and near by regional hospital. The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation provides both women and youth prevention services and has an active adolescent health research program.

Research questions currently under review at this site include:

  • The impact of ART on TB rates
  • The transmission dynamics of TB
  • The rates of TB infection and TB disease by age
  • HIV and TB prevalence
  • ART coverage and HIV testing rates
  • Prevention strategies and utilization thereof
  • New prevention strategies including HIV vaccine research
  • Community engagement
  • Adolescent prevalence and risk behaviours.

A Community Hall gathering was organized with the following objectives:

  1. to refresh the dialogues about current HIV prevention strategies
  2. to introduce the community to recent prevention milestones including in vaccines, microbicides and PrEP.
  3. to discuss new potential strategies in the pipeline,
  4. to talk about current work being conducted by the DTHF

The Community Hall is a central, large and functional building in the middle of the township within walking distance for all.

Flyers had been given out during November, bearing the Global Vaccine Enterprise logo, and staff had walked through the streets of the community with a loud hailer, advising residents of the meeting some days before and on the 1st December. 

The local adult and youth community advisory boards had also been involved in planning and event information dissemination as well as partnerships and collaborations with a variety of community based organisations.

It was clear that there was a great deal of interest and excitement. As community members entered the hall on the 1st, they received pamphlets highlighting HIV prevention, a package of treats and a red ribbon.  The hall was decorated with red balloons and posters from a variety of HIV organisations as well as DTHF banners.  

The programme was full:

it opened with an introduction by the Chair of the Community Advisory Board, Mrs Madikane, followed with a brief speech and a prayer and a community member was asked to light a symbolic candle.

Bafana Nkathazo, a member of our youth CAB, the Future Fighters, read a moving poem he had written, the audience responded spontaneously breaking into a hymn.  

The main presentation was given by a long time community educator/counselor and employee, Wadie Dyani on prevention and vaccines, delivered in Xhosa. 

Dr Melissa Wallace, the DTHF adolescent research division leader followed, speaking from her experiences and research in adolescents and HIV prevention.   Her presentation focused on the vulnerability of youth to HIV and what young people are asking from society.  She covered HIV vaccine research currently being conducted by the DTHF in 6 sites around South Africa and known as the SASHA studies.  She also discussed the youth centre that is to be opened by the DTHF in January for this community.  The centre has been built by the Foundation and it is hoped it will do much to reduce the high prevalence of HIV among adolescents in the area.  

This was followed by a surprise treasure hunt that had everyone searching the building for prizes. 

This being the Soccer World Cup year, a local very popular soccer team, SANTOS also participated. The soccer players arrived, promoting responsible behaviour among men, and were a hit especially with the youth. 

A group of lively gumboot dancers ended the morning session and had the audience on their feet, clapping and ululating.   

As the guests left the hall they were given hotdogs and juice before the release of red helium HIV HOPE balloons.   

Streets of Masi
While the adults were busy in the hall, Khoza Square was abuzz with children taking part in street soccer (the street had been cordoned off) and other fun activities with a DJ providing music to draw a crowd.   

A netball tournament followed in the afternoon, with a number of teams competing in a round robin event.

It was undoubtedly a very successful World AIDS Day event with excellent attendance. The hall was filled to capacity with over 300 adults present at any time and many more adolescents and children catered for in the outside Khoza square.  The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation team that organised the event worked hard and the success of the day is a testimony to their commitment and dedication as well as their collaboration with CAB, other community based organizations and their good standing in the community in general.

Our sincere thanks must go to the Global Vaccine Enterprise for providing the funds to enable us to host a meaningful and memorable World AIDS Day event that was able to highlight a number of important breakthroughs in prevention globally and locally in this last year. 


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