Comments about their work from our Peer Educators:
30 took part in this “talk”
This is all verbatim…….
Sibongile: Talking is entirely between you and the person you’re engaging. Sometimes they want to talk about HIV and sometimes we talk about counselling. Some have no problems and I tell them about what we do. Some ask when is there going to be a vaccine like for chicken pox? If they need [Lifeline’s] service they indicate. For counselling is the first point. Problems between men and women or a child and parent, and sometimes between neighbour and neighbour, because we are all so tied up. HIV and Aids: they want to know what it is, where it comes from, is there any progress with the tablet.
Josephine: Re condoms: They always say they don’t feel the umlazi, the taste, the feeling. They complain about condoms, they burst when you put on the condom –
Ruth – they don’t get it.
They claim condoms have worms. They use they buy from the chemist. They blame the government condoms.
Re worm myth: A man was saying the condom has worms and you have to put it in the water, in 30 minutes you’ll see the worms. And they see the lubricant.
Dolly – the lubricant is oil and it floats to the top.
Otilia:. When we start talking about the condom, they say “Let me start with you”. You have to defend yourself and run away. We educate them in such a way - why are we there and why are we talking to them.
Josephine. They say “Do you want me to use a condom even if you are married? You mean I must not trust my wife or my wife must not trust me?” I educate them by saying “sometimes your wife has met somebody in the family who is HIV or a relative, maybe the virus has entered in a different way, and you didn’t go and test both of you. It’s not as if your wife is cheating.
When one partner is positive and one is negative, how can other partner be negative and how can one be positive? Takes a long to explain. Sometimes they get the point.
Grace – another point is a culture thing. You find that they are married and the man will tell you “No I want a family and I want to have kids so don’t tell me about the condom”.
For us it’s still hard. They’re in denial.
In culture – they will tell you my father has 7 wives and he’s never had HIV Aids.
Even if you greet one person and start talking, and when you’re about to finish, they say I don’t understand you. He’s black and I’m also black and he doesn’t understand the language.
There was a myth going around that all peer educators are HIV positive. That we educate because we have it. So some will chase you away if they see you on the street. Some still believe that. We don’t defend ourselves. [we say]The fact that we understand and know what it does to people.
You have to win them.
And then when we agree that we’re positive they say okay we want to be like you. We also want to be like you and get grants. And they’re serious. Some of them say why can you tell us to use a condom when you don’t use a condom.
We have to educate them, and we have to tell them the wrongs and rights.
Lorraine: they say why should I use a condom when I’m already HIV positive? So we say you must use a condom because it will multiply if you don’t and there are different strains. And reinfections.
They often chase you away. Especially in ward75, the men’s hostel. For girls to show them about condoms, they feel disrespected. But with the skills we’ve learned, we’ve learned to educate them. They always shift the blame [if they have HIV]. But now they accommodate us. Now they come to us for condoms. Women’s hostels are good but when we knock at the door of a men’s hostel, it’s different.
Hiv – One day we went to a house. This man had been HIV for about two to three years and was terminally ill. We found he didn’t wear clothes and there were children in the house. His sister was there and begged us to take the man to the clinic. We took him to clinic. At the clinic they gave him medicine. But he didn’t have food to eat. He was very weak. I put him on my back. The police van gave us a lift. Dropped him at home. We gave the number and said they should take him to hospice care. After three days they called and said this man stabbed his brother. He was too weak but also silly.
There was a man staying in a house without windows and a door. He had a wheelchair. I stayed on the door and talked to him but he couldn’t respond. Said he was staying with his brother. The house was so filthy.
We’re staying in a sick community. We saw a man whose feet are swelling. He said don’t see me the way I am, I’m younger. It was also a dirty house. I’m asking myself what should be done to help those people. We give them our service but find a scary situation.
Lorraine: People appreciate what we are doing. Another one, she had a problem, her shack caught fire and two kids were burnt to death. A counsellor from Lifeline helped her. The counsellor tried to get her to stay and give her counselling. The third kid survived but is not coping well at school and needed a letter for the slow learners’ school, and with help from Lifeline the kid is now doing very well.
Parents are so frustrated with their children taking drugs. They’ll tell you they try everything. We normally refer the parents here for counseling, to deal with the pain.
Thenjiwe on HIV: Last week I was talking to a young man. When I told him Lifeline is counselling people, this man said most of the things that stress people and make the men not coping with women is unemployment, and this unemployment is causing chaos in the house. He said it’s like now there are a few boys sitting every evening in the street smoking dagga. He said they are using these ARVs for nyaope or it’s also called woonga. So I didn’t know and he said he is talking to them, advising them, it’s not good to do this. I walked to the young boys and I educated them on the dangers of drugs. And it’s good when they’re still young to be counselled.
I think people are yearning to be spoken to. As we are doing dialogues in different years we find that early days after elections that the counsellors were not introduced to the people yet, and it was two or three months, and people don’t know their ward councillors. As we came they would ask who is their ward councillor? We go with others as we do dialogues. [For example], we go with community policing forums. So different organizations then are also able to give their information as we get to their stories.
After doing the Lifeline course I knew myself and I know how I am. So that helped me deal with other people. That helped me to help other people, because if I know myself it’s going to be easier for me to understand what he or she is.
There were a lot of challenges at the clinic, a lot of people feel they’re not being heard, they’re not being treated at the clinic and no one is listening to them. They are so angry and they don’t know who to talk to. Scary- where people were given their HIV result without being counselled. With us being there and telling them about Lifeline, it was restoring them. They don’t trust each and every person in the community or even at home. And the clinic management as well. The sisters were happy to have us there. It was easy for people to call us aside and ask us questions and talk about ourselves.
Outreach, largely at the 16 Days Against Violence: To keep the momentum of 16 days, the outreach at Alex clinic and we have other campaigns, joining other NGOs and [became involved in] Claiming the Night and the Parks, where there is a lot of mugging and women are being raped at night and also during the day. We were physically involved for 15 sessions of 16 days.