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• Saturday, March 24th, 2012

By: Wandoo Makurdi & Clarece Polke

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• Monday, October 11th, 2010

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• Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

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Image 1 – South Africa and Brazil, hosts of the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup tournaments, have teamed up to spread the message of HIV prevention; Image 2 – A father and daughter participate in an HIV/AIDS awareness program in Johannesburg; Image 3 – Collin Williams, the program manager at the Tehillah Community Center , is one of the foot soldiers in South Africa’s fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic; Image 4 – at the Tehillah Center, HIV/AIDS prevention is part of a holistic approach to solving problems among young people in Soweto

SOWETO, South Africa — Collin Williams’ long, French-tipped nails animatedly sliced through the air as he described the unique community in which he works, as if his piercing words and direct stare weren’t enough to capture its essence.

The welcoming sounds of children chanting the alphabet and the consistent pop of billiard balls colliding from the nearby game room contrasted sharply with the “Enter at Your Own Risk” sign taped to the front door near the main entrance. Williams’ modest clothing made the program manager at the Tehillah Community Center seem right at home in the mildly lit cobbled halls.

He spoke with evident pride as he explained the center’s unique, hands-on outreach initiatives that make it a cornerstone in the Soweto community, specifically in terms of dealing with HIV prevention, treatment and support.

While South Africa still has one of the largest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world, programs like the Tehillah center have helped reverse the trend. A specific, notable decrease has been shown among youth aged 2 to 24 in a 2008 HIV Prevalence Survey released by the National Department of Health. The survey reported decreases from 5.6 percent in 2002 to 2.5 percent in 2008 in children aged 2 to 14, and 10.3 percent in 2005 to 8.6 percent in 2008 in children aged 15-24. Nongovernmental organizations and government agencies have joined forces to develop effective outreach campaigns to spread the message of abstinence, monogamy, regular testing and condom use.

A national survey in 2008 was designed to comparatively evaluate the various factors causing South Africa’s high infection rates, specifically addressing each of South Africa’s provinces. “A Turning Tide Among Teenagers?” reported males and females aged 15-24 had the highest reported rates of condom use at last sex among all age groups.

“In the schools, guys and girls use the condoms for shoe polish, yet they still count them in their stats. They need to come to the communities and find out how many people are really using condoms for sex,” Williams said, emphasizing that his one-on-one experiences of working within the community proved that statistics don’t reflect the reality of teenage sexual practices.

Williams said his honesty about his status as being HIV-positive and homosexual combined with his leadership role in the community has established a bond of trust and confidence between him and community members. He frustratingly recalled an argument with the department of health about lack of follow-up about condom use after distribution.

“The education programs our government has done over the past few years haven’t been effective, because they gloss over the topic,” Williams said of what he feels to be the government’s detached approach to prevention. “That was the biggest embarrassment to us in our country. If the leadership doesn’t take it seriously and doesn’t want to take it head-on then the masses won’t take it seriously.”

The community center practices an interactive approach to prevention, including having five on-duty nurses available at the center for counseling and separate sex-education discussion groups for young girls and boys. Williams says these practices significantly contributed to the drop in teenage pregnancy rates and young infection rates in the area since the center’s opening in 2008.

Obstacles still remain to decreasing the infection rate, however, as South Africans battle the complex factors influencing the differing rates across the provinces.

Dr. Liz Floyd, the director of the Multi-Sectoral AIDS Unit in Gauteng Province, said the complex issue of high infection rates among young adults who are out of school and unemployed is one of the most difficult challenges the government is trying to approach.

Floyd, head of the government branch designed to specifically address AIDS in Gauteng Province, added that the lack of opportunity for students to advance their education or gain employment once they leave secondary school creates a multifaceted barrier beyond simple AIDS awareness and prevention methods. The complexity of the issue segues into economic and educational concerns as well, which is why the department relies on cooperation and support from within communities.

She placed emphasis on an entirely different, if not marginalized, portion of the population facing similar difficulties: low-income, middle-aged women.

“We have a higher HIV infection rate among poor women because of a tendency to have sex for income; not necessarily for cash, but for survival,” Floyd said.

Floyd reported that middle-aged women have one of the highest infection rates of all population groups because of too many instances of forced sex without a condom. Her experience has shown that preaching the importance of safe sex and prevention is not a high priority for people, particularly women, in circumstances of extreme poverty.

The futility of the government’s programs has left many critics calling for a change in policy and leadership. A member of the Provincial Legislature for Gauteng Province and a Democratic Alliance spokesman, Neil Campbell, spoke out against what he characterized as an outdated and ineffective platform.

“It’s pathetic,” Campbell said. “HIV/AIDS is treated as a special disease in this country. Because there was an element of stigmatization with the disease, you weren’t allowed to even mention the word HIV. Instead we have these loveLife campaigns where we put out a whole lot of glossy papers, but half of the people can’t read because we’ve got education standards that are so low. I believe that our government has failed us here, and President Zuma with his shower solution to first exposure prophylaxis takes the cake.”

Campbell was referring to a statement Jacob Zuma made in 2006 — before he became president —during a trial in which he was accused of raping an HIV-positive woman. Zuma’s defense to not using a condom was that he left the bedroom and showered after they had consensual sex, minimizing his risk of infection.
The controversial comment was one of many that supported claims of government apathy toward the epidemic. However, the government is now campaigning to spread awareness and prevention to reduce the country’s high infection rate.

Sarah Laurence, a consultant at Health and Development Africa and a member of the African non-governmental organization’s research team, said a survey was conducted by Health and Development Africa to evaluate various communication campaigns around HIV. The survey’s results reflect a success that conflicts with Campbell’s stance that the campaigns are futile. The survey even formed a direct link between media campaign exposure and the likelihood of using a condom during sex.

“If you had only seen one mass media campaign around HIV prevention you were less likely to use a condom as compared to somebody who had seen five and even less like than somebody who had seen all 11,” Laurence said of the survey’s results.

The country has numerous media campaigns, including Soul City, addressing issues like the importance of monogamy and condom use among teenagers, and Brothers for Life, which promotes male empowerment and accountability for sexual practices. While each of South Africa’s campaigns appeals to a different audience and promotes varying messages, one consistent theme is emphasized in all HIV campaigns: self-responsibility to prevent infection.

Reported by “A Turning Tide Among Teenagers,” the Soul City campaign (mainly focused toward adults) and the Soul Buddyz campaign (focused on children) uses multiple media outlets, both broadcast and print.

These outlets, combined with practical activities like Soul Buddyz clubs, allowed for over 75 percent of youth aged 15-24 to be exposed to Soul City’s campaign in 2008.

“People always ask do these campaigns work, and what we’re seeing is that they do work,” Laurence said. “They have worked on certain key indicators; on other indicators they haven’t been shown to be very effective but I think that’s because the messaging is quite new.”

The highest exposure rate, however, came from the government-sponsored campaign, loveLife, which reached 79 percent of youth aged 15-24 in 2008, as reported by “A Turning Tide Among Teenagers.”

The Multi-Sectoral AIDS Unit’s approach goes beyond pamphlets, television and radio commercials: the unit provides workshops to promote self-esteem among women and basic skill training to increase survival skills. This campaign, Floyd says, has promoted a significant increase in condom use among middle-aged women living below the poverty line.

South Africa was able to use its role as 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts to reach extend the reach of the government’s awareness and prevention message, and the tournament provided a platform for the unit’s outreach campaigns.

A Brazilian samba band, decked out in white pants and teal T-shirts, performed to a gathering crowd as people slowly milled onto the New Market square in Newtown before the recent World Cup final. A long bus with larger than life figures in various capoeira positions sprawled across the sides and a large red bow tightly tied around the door caught the curious stares of passers-by.

The festive atmosphere surrounding the launch of the Wake Cup campaign provided a distinct contrast to the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. The coordinating partners of the Wake Cup campaign, the Multi-Sectoral AIDS Unit, a local nongovernmental organization, Bridges of Hope, the Brazilian government and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, used “the party of football” as a platform for South Africa’s battle with HIV.

The coordinator of the launch and a member of the campaign, Valentina Brena Torres, said the purpose of the day was to create an atmosphere of fun and excitement to capture and maintain the audience’s attention while still conveying the importance of condom use.

“That’s the importance of getting in with the people and inviting people to get on the bus,” Brena, a Uruguayan, said. “Once they get on the bus we have different cartoons about how to use a condom and different kinds of cartoons or drawings by different designers; we try to make a funny story to explain each of the drawings. We try to talk with the people and we invite them to participate in our plays. Then, after this, we hand out the condoms and the pamphlets.”

The bus and surrounding market square remained a bed of activity well into the day. Volunteers mingled in the crowd, distributing condoms from large cardboard boxes and pamphlets demonstrating proper condom use.

Oliver Kulilishika, a social worker from Lusaka, Zambia, visiting Newtown, said the festive atmosphere immediately sparked his curiosity.

“The campaign has an impact. Being a social worker, I think it’s a very good approach, and it’s something I feel I could adapt to my country when I get back to Zambia. It’s an eye-opener for me, using visual aids as an approach toward the eradication of HIV,” Kulilishika said.

The launch was the first of many days of music, skits, condoms and soccer as the bus traveled to various fan parks throughout Gauteng for the duration of the World Cup.

Laurence stressed that while research continues to show overall positive results, she would like to see more campaigns, like the Wake Cup, that take a proactive, direct approach to the problem with local campaigns.

“I’d really like to see our findings being used to enforce a local level response,” Laurence said. “From a research point of view, it would nice to see our findings actually translated into action.”

Brena agreed, issuing a call to action to those unaware of the pandemic and its effects in particular on sub-Saharan Africa.

“We can’t wait for the politicians,” Brena said. “As much as we want to join up with them, everyone has to start with something; bit by bit, as each person comes, we can put a brake on the spread of AIDS in the world.”

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• Sunday, August 01st, 2010

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• Thursday, July 29th, 2010

The 21 Students at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport — (left to right top row) Tatiana Mosley (Fayetteville State), Karen Evans (Spelman), Stephen Love (Morehouse), Justin Smith (FAMU), Derrill Miller (Grambling), Victor Pimentel (Norfolk State), Tremone Jackson (Johnson C. Smith), Graylin Taylor (Fort Valley State), (left to right second row) Cherish Rush (Texas Southern), Jasmine Singleton (Fort Valley State), Junious Smith III (Fayetteville State), Theresa Scales (Xavier), Funbi Ibe (Clark Atlanta), Jelyse Dawson (Grambling), (left to right bottom row) Lael Clark (Johnson C. Smith), Alisa Routh (FAMU), Sherron Douglas (Southern), Steve Morgan Jr. (Xavier), Ryan Small (Texas Southern), Edifon Ette (Southern), Ashley Canty (Norfolk State)

The FAMU South Africa reporting team caught up with FAMU’s Alisa Routh, Grambling State University’s Derrill Miller and Spelman College’s Karen Evans to recap their most memorable experiences from the Coca-Cola sponsored trip to South Africa. Links to blogs penned by Alisa during the trip are listed below.

The trip of a lifetime, Stories of struggle and Church, food and football

ATLANTA — As teams from around the globe battled for World Cup glory, 21 students from historically black colleges and universities faced off against another fierce opponent, Africa’s water crisis.

The students were winners of the Coca-Cola “Open Happiness Tour” competition, which sought original answers to the question “How does the Coca-Cola RAIN program inspire you?” in the form of short video entries.

The prize: a five-day cultural excursion to South Africa where they gained firsthand knowledge of the continent’s devastating clean water shortage, met actor Idris Elba and attended a World Cup match between Argentina and Mexico.
FAMU’s Alisa Routh, a third-year public relations student from Atlanta, described the trip as a life-changing experience.

“It has made me work harder and stay positive. To see why I should be grateful regardless of my trials is only showing a pinch of the spirit that those beautiful people have,” Routh said.

Karen Evans, a recent graduate of Spelman College, completed a school project on water conservation and leapt at the chance to take her newfound knowledge to a global level.
“It’s more important than many of the things in the media, yet nobody talks about it,” Evans said. “Simple things like not having sanitary water really hit a lot of people. I did research before but never realized how severe the problem was or how easy it is to fix.”

The trip is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Derrill Miller, a third-year hospitality management student at Grambling State University, who has wanted to travel to Africa since the seventh grade. He said witnessing the devastation firsthand motivated him to join the fight for access to safe drinking water.

“I have learned to be grateful for everything that I have and to appreciate the smaller things in life. I was inspired to step up and work harder to make a change in my household and in the world,” Miller said. He now operates a small non-profit organization called One Love, One World designed to create fresh-water solutions throughout Africa.

He hopes to return to the continent and is thankful for this rare opportunity, saying “It was more than a contest that I won. It was a dream that I lived.”

For more information about the Coca-Cola RAIN initiative visit:
http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/presscenter/nr_20090316_africa_rain_projects.html

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• Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

How foolish could I have been? To arrive in a country and not know it had skyscrapers in lieu of straw huts, or the high-speed Gautrain instead of an elephant chauffeur.

Would you come to a country thinking you had to survive off a gallon of water you stuffed in your luggage, when all along there was perfect running water and electricity? Me neither.

Over my time spent in South Africa, I have finally figured out what grinds my American gears. It took awhile to figure it out, and it was only until it became so expected that I realized the question irritated me.

“So it’s not what you had expected, is it?”

The question that seems to roll off every South African’s tongue when we meet for the first time. They stand their with their eyebrows lifted and a smirk, waiting for my ignorance to seep through my teeth, thinking I will say “Oh my God! I’m so relieved I’m not naked, sleeping on a small cot, shooing away humongous flies under a scorching sun!”

I truly hate that question, because it makes no sense to me. Granted, I’m a college educated woman, but I would hope that even the crazy football fans did a little bit of research before flying across the seas to watch the tournament.

I don’t doubt there are those blockheads, who arrived to O.R. Tambo International Airport with a bag full of shorts, suntan lotion and protective nets, but for the most part, I’m sure people did their homework.

What aggravates me even more is when I tell them, “No I knew what to expect,” and they sarcastically rebut, “Oh so you did a little preparation before coming here?”

No! Actually, I had been forced to read books, search AOL (before Google was hot) and watch documentaries about foreign places when I would rather be outside with the rest of the 9-year-olds in my neighborhood.

The conversation always becomes insulting to me, and I give up before someone labels me a know-it-all-American-jerk.

Me assuming your country is some third-world ill country is just as bad as you assuming foreigners don’t take the time to learn about your country.

Although this does bother me, I have yet to deter from wanting to be here after graduation. I still love Mzansi and its people, bad assumptions and all.

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• Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

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• Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Photograph by Chen Xi

JOHANNESBURG — A lone goal in extra time from midfielder Andrés Iniesta helped Spain defeat the Netherlands and make history Sunday night in the final match of the FIFA World Cup at Soccer City stadium.

President Jacob Zuma, along with Queen Sofia of Spain and Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, attended the match, which was preceded by an elaborate closing ceremony where former president Nelson Mandela made a brief appearance to a thunderous ovation. Highlights included a performance by Shakira, dancers forming a human vuvuzela, and a “thank you” message projected onto the field in languages of all 32 competing teams.

On the field, the two finalists were evenly matched, each unable to penetrate the others’ defense for a full 90 minutes before going to extra time, for only the sixth time in World Cup finals history.

The match also provided a flurry of yellow cards, with English referee Howard Webb giving out 14 bookings to five Spanish players and eight Dutch players before the final whistle. Two of these yellow cards were awarded to Dutch defender John Heitinga, forcing the Netherlands to play the last 23 minutes with 10 men. Spain’s victory marks the first time the country has won the World Cup, and the first time a European team has won outside Europe.

Both teams were on the attack early, trading shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of play. In the 11th minute Spanish striker David Villa appeared to have lined up a nice crossing pass, but powered the ball into the side netting. Although many such opportunities would present themselves, stellar defense on both sides prevented goals.

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas made several spectacular saves, including a 33rd-minute leaping catch as he collided with defender Carles Puyol. Dutch forward Arjen Robben threatened to break the 0-0 tie as the first half wound down, but Casillas deflected his shot out of bounds.

In the second half frustration continued to mount for the offenses in a series of close calls. A Spanish corner kick in the 48th minute bounced off Puyol’s head and rolled right past the waiting foot of Spain’s Joan Capdevila. Hoping to give the offense a shot in the arm Spain substituted speedy striker Jesus Navas, but the Netherlands would get the next attempt on goal.

In the 62nd minute Robben made a perfectly timed run through the Spanish defense to catch up to a long pass, forcing Casillas to charge off the line and make a desperate save with his left foot. Seven minutes later Villa had a chance to retaliate in the penalty area but a last-ditch effort by the Dutch defense prevented a goal.

With time running out, both teams attacked with an increased sense of urgency. Robben made another run in the 83rd minute, once again reaching the penalty area before being brought down by a hard challenge. He contested the no-call, but only received one of the night’s many yellow cards for his efforts. An 86th-minute substitution of midfielder Cesc Fabregas was not enough to secure a Spanish goal before time expired, sending the match into extra time.

Spain dominated the first 15 minutes of extra time, with Iniesta, Fábregas, and Navas all taking shots on the Dutch goal. Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque replaced star forward David Villa with Fernando Torres, who would later help set up Iniesta’s winning goal.

In the 17th minute of extra time Heitinga earned his second yellow card and ejection from the game.

The Netherlands’ fate was sealed less than 10 minutes later as Iniesta zipped his shot past goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg’s outstretched fingertips. The Netherlands tried desperately to equalize but came up short, earning its third second-place finish in three finals appearances.

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• Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Photograph by Chen Xi

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa did not let the world down as the gracious host of the month-long party that finally ended Sunday night with Spain taking home the goodie bag stuffed with the shiny cup.

When the nation’s team bowed out of the tournament on June 22, many South Africans continued to fuel the spirit surrounding the 2010 World Cup.

There were fans in red and yellow rooting for Spain and in bright orange paraphernalia supporting the Netherlands, but there is no doubt South African fans were the most visible Sunday night in Newtown’s Fan Fest.

Andrew Moore stood between the vending booths and viewing area holding a South African flag big enough to top a flag pole. As wind picked up, the flag whipped against his gold and green track jacket.

Moore, 38, said he felt it was the people’s duty to keep the tournament in high energy.

“The World Cup is more of South Africa than just the performance of our national team, because we are hosts, we have to do it and do it well,” Moore said. “Like tonight I’m supporting Spain, and I have no idea who Spain is.”

“Our team is long gone, but it’s because we’re in the spirit, we’re still enjoying it,” Moore said. “I think this World Cup has been very much for the fans, and we’re supporting other teams now.”

One of the biggest concerns of the tournament had been whether the host country would continue to be involved after South Africa’s loss.

Dianne Eloff, a 28-year-old South African, said she never understood the worry, because South Africans are patriotic and lively people.

“This is our Cup, you think we’re not going to show up because Bafana Bafana is gone?” Eloff questioned. “You’re nuts if you think they’re going to stop our celebration.”

Eloff said she’s been team swapping since South Africa left the tournament.

“First I was with Ghana and then Uruguay, it helps to give me excitement at these things,” Eloff said about the fan park, “I rooted for Netherlands today; they let me down.”

Moore said the most interesting aspect of this World Cup will be what happens once all the visitors depart and fan park screens are packed up.

“Later on we will work out what the real headaches are,” Moore said. “A party this good will have a hangover; we will see tomorrow what that is.”

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• Sunday, July 11th, 2010

German woman Karen Ramsden — Photograph by He Long

JOHANNESBURG – Germany’s trip to the World Cup ended in success Saturday after the team secured its fourth bronze medal in a 3-2 win over Uruguay.

A few near-misses and constant action characterized the game in Port Elizabeth as Germany claimed the lead early in the game with crisp passing and persistent offense.

Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera turned away a thundering long-range shot by midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose teammate Thomas Müller turned the rebound into the first goal for Germany 19 minutes into the game.

Nine minutes later Uruguay’s Diego Perez stripped the ball from Schweinsteiger and initiated a series of passes that ultimately found forward Edinson Cavani, who tied the game at 1-1.

German goalkeeper Jörg Butt was put to the test less than four minutes into the second half and blocked two attempts within seconds of each other. The next 10 minutes tested both sides’ defenses: Uruguayan forward Diego Forlán secured a surprise goal in the 51st minute after a well-placed pass from Egidio Arévalo, followed five minutes later by a goal by German midfielder Marcell Jansen to tie the score again.

The last ten minutes of the game were packed with drama. Butt’s strong performance was highlighted by three saves in less than five minutes. Midfielder Sami Khedira thrust the Germans into the lead with a dramatic header from a scramble in the penalty area after a corner kick, making the score 3-2.

In a last-ditch effort, Forlán took a free kick three minutes into stoppage time that bounced off the crossbar, barely missing what would have been the game-tying goal. The final whistle came immediately afterward, and Germany’s third-place finish was secure.

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