On the 18th of June, Star For Life was, for the first time, featured at the South African AIDS Conference at the ICC in Durban, South Africa. The conference has a large regional and global attendance. A group of 20 members of staff, and previous and current learners at SFL schools, made a huge impression at a Youth Event that was linked to the conference. Ayeye Star For Life, Ayeye!

Zola Maphumulo, a learner from Vukuzakhe High School

 speaking at the conference.

As we know, South Africa is one of the countries most affected by HIV, and studies have shown that infections among young people remain very high even though many HIV positive people now receive medication. This means that HIV prevention efforts must be scaled up further to ensure that young people are well informed about HIV and AIDS. In other words, there is a great need for programmes such as those that Star For Life can offer.

 

The theme of the SA AIDS Conference was Zero new HIV & TB infections, Zero discrimination, stigma and Zero AIDS related deaths! This is a global theme that currently is motivating also other conferences and initiatives across the world. However, the organisers of the SA AIDS Conference felt that the voices of the youth are often not heard properly. The Youth Event was therefore restricted to participants under the age of 30 in order to ensure the youth could speak and reflect freely. A report from the event will inform those over 30 about what was discussed. 

Youth after getting tested for HIV at the conference.

The Star For Life presentation was opened by an incredible performance by our Choir that got the audience’s attention and created a good vibe in the venue. After the singing, a number of members of staff – Coaches, the Skills Programme Assistant, and the M&E Officer – all participated in a presentation of Star For life. The three Coaches - Thapelo Jali, Nokukhanya Mazibuko and Fezile Sikhosana – spoke of their work in the schools and what it is like to be a youth who can counsel not only learners but sometimes also educators in the schools. Mmiseni Dladla then spoke about how our Skills Programme complements our other programmes to help learners find a job, and Nonhlanhla Thethwayo concluded by presenting how we monitor and evaluate our work and its effects. Through a very strong and personal testimony, Ntombenhle Shobede, a member of our Star Choir, spoke about her experience and the opportunities she has been exposed to as a Star For Life learner and as a Star Choir Member.


Another testimony came from a current learner at a SFL school, Zola Maphumulo from Vukuzakhe High School. Zola said that Star For Life is a dream builder: “Before I joined a Star For Life supported school I didn't know what I wanted in life but through the help of the Life Coach; now I know that I want to be an engineer”, said Zola.

 

SFL then showed two of the films that were made by SFL learners through a set of film-making workshops that we ran last year. The audience was moved and impressed by the movies Choices and Keep Smiling. Rochelle Naidu from CAPRISA said: “I like the fact that these short movies were produced by the learners themselves and they tackle the issues that touch young people directly, this also shows that young people are doing something to fight the stigma attached to HIV and Aids”.

 

Commenting on what she had learnt through the SFL presentation, Sisanda Erasmus from the Rea Era Youth and Community Development Organisation said:” Star For Life should be expanded all over the country, each and every school should have a Coach. Pupils are in need of professional counselors”.


At the end of the Youth Event, participants all took an HIV test and pictures were taken to urge other young people to go for an HIV test and know their status.


Our feature at the SA AIDS Conference Youth Event was a great occasion for Star For Life. We wish to thank the Conference Organisers for giving us this opportunity to present our organisation and our programmes. We can promise that we will be back at future conferences! We wish to thank all SFL Stars who made the feature such a success. And we also wish to thank all those of our ‘over-30’ SFL colleagues who assisted with preparing the presentation and the Star Choir performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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