Cassidy Snyders is 13 years old; he’s in year 7 and he’s the second of four brothers. His mother is 31 and his father is 27, that means that his mother was 18 when she fell pregnant with him and his father was 14. Cassi’s father didn’t even have the age to vote and he was already a dad.

The child is one of the many kids who come to Houties every week and, even if he says that he likes all of the activities, his favorite is Fridays’ excursion day. In order to be able to attend our weekly trips, Cassi has to come the other days as well: Mondays attending art class, Wednesdays to PE and teamwork and Thursdays to daily life activities.

One of the themes that has been dealt with in our Thursday workshop is puberty, Cassi had never heard about it until then. Talking about the changes in our organism during this phase, sexuality and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) is important for children in any part of the world, but in South Africa it plays an even more important role, since 19 % of the world population affected by HIV is South African.

According to UNAIDS, in 2017 there were 7.2 million people affected by HIV in South Africa, around 280,000 of them were minors. Taking the demographic data published by the official institute Statistics South Africa in 2011, these 7.2 million people would represent almost 15 % of the country’s population.

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Antiretroviral drugs are free and regarding preventive antiretroviral treatment, such as the PrEP, a pill that serves to prevent HIV, it has to be emphasised that South Africa is the first country in the continent to have allowed the use of this kind of medication. In spite of that, one must not forget that, it is equally important to inform about other prevention strategies such as condoms.

One of the main problems that we’ve encountered in Hangberg, the slum where we work, are premature pregnancies, which reveals that condoms are not being used, key to avoiding not only pregnancy but also STDs. Therefore, talking about puberty and sexuality is relevant for the kids to familiarize them with its use and to discover the changes that their organisms are going to experience. This is how Cassidy recognizes it: «I think that talking about it is important in order to get to know my body».

In 2017, in Spain there were around 150,000 people affected by HIV, a figure which is far from close to South Africa’s reality. The only thing which marks a difference is the information that we have received about it in order to fight this epidemic. For example, does the campaign “Put it on, put it on him” (“Póntelo, pónselo”) ring a bell? It’s a Spanish campaign from 1981 which was aimed at promoting the use of condoms among young people. It counted on the participation of the singers Luz Casal and Loquillo, among others, and the Department of Health and Social Affairs supported it. This is what is needed in South Africa, more information. Help us keep on doing it! Donate to Houties so we are able to cover the staff’s salaries and keep going with workshops such as this one!+

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