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Vukila Ngamlana

In his village, Chief Vukila Ngamlana sees hope emerge from interactive theater that helps stop HIV. Photo: Wendy Stone.

HIV prevention and safer childbirths mean healthier families and a brighter future

A world where health is within reach for everyone. It isn’t making headlines, but it is a vision that resonates deeply in South Africa, a country that faces extreme disparities in health and wealth.

Since overcoming apartheid, South Africa has fought hard and with heart to achieve social change, reconciliation, and equity—including equal access to the basics of good health.

Right now, only a startling minority of South Africans have reliable access to health care. The still-new public health system is struggling to keep up with the huge health challenges the country faces, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and high rates of maternal and child death. But in the midst of these challenges is hope: hope for families, hope for communities, and hope for the country and its future.

In 2006, PATH won our first major grant to expand our work in the region. Today, South Africa is home to one of our fastest-growing programs. The stories below exemplify our work in the country—and the impact of our donors’ support.

Magnet theater sets stage for HIV prevention

In the windswept, wintery community of Ngqamakwe, village chief Vukila Ngamlana rushes to a nearby field just in time to watch an afternoon performance of magnet theater. This interactive and educational drama organized by PATH draws community members to its fold to explore health issues and prompt dialogue about how to prevent the spread of HIV.

Already, Chief Ngamlana has seen the benefit of the weekly performances. Young people are receiving reliable information about sexual health. Men and women living with HIV are no longer afraid of disclosing their status. And the rate of HIV in the village is decreasing.

“The youth from this community like the magnet theater, and most of them have changed their behavior,” says Chief Ngamlana, who even lets the troupe rehearse in his home. “They have learned a lot.”

Protecting mothers’ lives

In the maternity ward of Greytown Hospital in KwaZulu Natal Province, matron-in-charge M. M. Mavundla too often has watched women die during childbirth. Though nearly 85 percent of women in South Africa give birth in a medical facility, and even more receive care during pregnancy, mothers die at alarming rates from preventable complications.

With training from PATH, midwives at Greytown now have the tools and knowledge to prevent these complications—and ensure more children have moms. Trained midwives train other hospital staff in lifesaving practices, and the cycle of knowledge continues.

“PATH made life very easy for us,” Mrs. Mavundla says.

For babies, a healthy future

Nontandazo Tukani

Nurse Nontandazo Tukani and her staff help women with HIV protect their babies. Photo: Wendy Stone.

Nurse Nontandazo Tukani knows that when an HIV-positive woman gives birth, her baby has a chance at HIV-free survival. Once frustrated by the virus, the nurse now sees a way to help mothers safeguard their children from HIV and watch them thrive.

At Tutura Clinic in southeastern South Africa, Nurse Tukani and her staff counsel expectant mothers about drug therapy to prevent HIV transmission during pregnancy and about feeding options to keep their infants protected during the critical first months of life. With PATH’s support, hospital staff have learned how to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and women with HIV are seeing a long and healthy life ahead for their babies.

“Now, instead of giving birth to unhealthy babies,” Nurse Tukani notes, “they have healthy babies that are going to be professionals, are going to be the future.”