Lameeza joined Masincedane Community Centre in 2012. After resigning from her job as a sales person at Mr. Price, she started working as a community care worker at Gustrouw Clinic. At Gustrouw Clinic she was counting HIV and TB medications for patients. Her position as a community care worker allowed her to interact frequently with HIV and TB patients. Somehow, her frequent interactions with patients made her realise that she wanted to continue serving the community in health care. She then moved to Masincedane Community Centre to continue working as a community care worker. At Masincedane she was invited to attend a training programme to be an HIV testing Counsellor for community members who are testing at the centre. For two months she attended and competed the training and began servicing the community as an HIV testing Counsellor.
In addition to HIV testing, Masincedane Community Centre offers a variety of health care services to the Strand communities, including blood pressure and glucose monitoring, cholesterol monitoring, condom distribution, pregnancy test, family planning, foot care and eye testing. The centre also has sessions of and run support group programs for its users. The centre’s community programs are mainly funded by the national lottery fund and the Western Provincial Government.
Lameeza is one of the key members of the Masincedane Community Centre for the HIV testing program. Her community-based HIV testing tent provides easy access to the Masincedane HIV testing and counselling services. It makes it convenient for community members to spare a moment tocheck their HIV statuses while they are on the go for their daily errands. They no longer need to go to the communities’ day care clinics and wait in long queues before testing and knowing their statuses. The Masincedane CommunityCentre brings the HIV testing service close to their homes and for their convenience. Lameeza says she enjoys being in the communities to provide the counselling and testing services as she saves community members’ lives. She adds that some community members do not feel the need to go to the clinics to test and know their HIV statuses. By being in their midst in the HIV testing tent, and as they walk by, some become encouraged and gain the strength to visit her for counselling and testing. In this way, Masincedane makes it easy for the community members to know their statuses so that they can start their treatment early when they learn they are HIV positive.
The epidemic of HIV/AIDS has been a government and community challenge since the virus emerged in the early 1980s. However, lack of knowledge about the virus made it difficult for the government and communities to deal with the early epidemic infections and deaths. As many South Africans were falling ill and dying, community members were astound by the ‘mysterious’ deadly illnesses that characterised HIV infected bodies. Family and community members did not know how to respond to the crisis.
With the controversial non-response to the epidemic by the Thabo Mbeki administration, consequently leading to the Treatment Action Campaign court campaign to oblige the government to provide free medication to HIV positive citizens, nongovernment organisations were making it their business to service the community on HIV/AIDS education and care programs. Socially and clinically responsive campaigns were crafted to educate South Africans about the virus. Among the early responses to the epidemic was the LoveLife campaign which concentrated its sex education programs on the youth and communities. Thereafter, a number of social and clinical campaigns followed with HIV educational programs, each improving from the previous educational contents. Social and clinical research programs were conceptualised and conducted to provide updated content and information on the virus. The research findings necessitated upgrades on the previous educational contents distributed to the communities for the purpose of preventing and managing the HIV infections. Seemingly, they all worked on research trials but on-going social and clinical basis.
Statistics South Africa, Avert and UNAIDS report that as from 2015, there were 7million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS. By 2014, Avert reports that more than 3million South Africans were receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART). With clinical and social research, the government and the nongovernmental organisations have made strides in providing effective tools to prevent and manage the virus infections and related deaths.
The reports show that from 2002 to 2016, there has been significant success in preventing and managing HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Through the government sponsored antiretroviral treatment (ART) andcommunity programs such as those offered by Masincedane Community Centre, and the organisations that began the early community work with the rise of the epidemic infections and deaths, they report success in the fight against the virus. For Lameeza, it is the ultimate achievement of saving and supporting lives that makes her enjoy the service of HIV testing and counselling communities at Masincedane Community Centre. And it is her love for healthy communities that makes her a living legend that deserves to be celebrated and supported during this women’s month and beyond. Her community service for healthy communities is an on-going commitment beyond the women’s month, so should her support and appreciation by her community and South Africa at large.
The Masincedane Community Centre’s head office is located in Strand with area offices in Khwezi and Nomzamo Community Centre. Lameeza can be reached at the Nomzamo Community Centre office for further information on her work.