Children's Rights Centre (CRC)

We seek to contribute to the development of a sustainable child-friendly society in South Africa, with child-friendly policies and practices at all levels of society based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights & Welfare of the Child, and the South African Constitution. We do this through awareness-raising, training, monitoring, advocacy, information sharing and building a children's rights movement including children and adults as partners.
Jun 27, 2011

Global Giving Report No.4

Global Giving Foundation: Support the wellbeing of children with HIV in SA

Report 4: (June 2011)

By Hema Somai, Edited by Sunitha Eshwarlall

Towards the later part of 2011, we were approached by an organisation in Zambia, CIRDZ (The Centre for Infectious Disease and Research), which supports the Zambian Ministry of Health in their ARV scale up programme in four provinces of Zambia. They wanted to reprint My Living Positively Handbooks, to increase the involvement and awareness of HIV positive children in Zambia to HIV support groups and kids clinic rooms.

Zambia is reported to have one of the most devastating HIV and AIDS epidemics in the world (AVERT, 2010). It is reported that more than one in every seven adults in the country are living with HIV and AIDS. The epidemic has been particularly harsh on children in Zambia. In 2010 it was reported there were 120,000 children living with HIV and AIDS (AVERT, 2010). Furthermore, in 2009 it was estimated that of the 690,000 children that were orphaned, HIV and AIDS was responsible for contributing to more than half of that number. The rate of child sexual abuse increased rapidly over the recent years. In 2003 child rape was being fueled by the ‘virgin cure myth’ (which wrongfully claims that sex with a virgin can cure HIV and AIDS). The prevention of mother to child transmission programme began in 1999 and by the end of 2009 69% of expectant pregnant women living with HIV and AIDS were receiving treatment.

Understanding the situation of HIV and AIDS in Zambia and it’s particularly devastating effects on children and families made us very excited when the request came through. We were extremely eager at this prospect as well as knowing that the Handbook was seen as a valuable resource for children beyond South African borders. At the beginning of May 2011, we were informed by our colleagues in Zambia that they indeed printed 25 000 copies of the handbook! What an astounding accomplishment. The distribution of the handbooks began immediately following the printing to children attending HIV support groups. CIRDZ has also trained pediatric support workers on how to use the book themselves and how to show caregivers how to use the book as well. Having developed this relationship with CIRDZ has enabled us to understand that the HIV and AIDS epidemic is quite different in the various African countries across the continent however the similarities are stark in the way it has affected the lives of children and families.


AVERT 2010. HIV and AIDS in Zambia. (

Feb 25, 2011

Report No3: Support Children living with HIV/AIDS

In March we will be moving ahead with reprinting the My Living Positively Books! We are quite excited to be able to reprint 3,000 copies. This is possible thanks to the support of contributions we received so far through the Global Giving Campaign. Although we are quite close to meeting our target for printing 5,000 copies, the demand is so great to get some copies out that we have decided to print what we can now with what we have. So we are in the midst of updating the treatment regimen text to taken into account positive developments in the paediatric treatment guidelines in South Africa since 2006, when the book was first published.

 It is so encouraging to know that the handbook is still relevant and highly sought after almost 5 years since it was first published. For example, in early February we visited a local paediatric clinic linked to a government subsidised hospital in Durban, South Africa. The purpose of the visit was to reignite links with the clinic and to also deliver 50 My Living Positively Handbooks (isiZulu versions only). The success this clinic has made for children living with HIV and AIDS over the past 8-10 years is heart-warming. What was clear is that child-friendly health care, which is what is practiced at this clinic, is central to its success. We were amazed by the bold colours and drawings on the walls of the clinic waiting and play rooms, as well as by the games and toys that kept the children busy while they waited their turn to see the doctor or get their blood tests. It was heartwarming to seeing the smiling faces, who knew all too well what a day at the clinic holds.

 In South Africa the landscape around HIV testing is changing. Since April 2010, the country has embarked on a National HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign which seeks to conduct mass opt-out testing of all South Africans. Early 2011 was ear-marked for the rollout of mass HIV testing of children in high schools. Children’s Rights Centre and the Yezingane Network together with other civil society organisations raised a number of concerns about conducting such a campaign on a mass level in a school setting which require further attention as mass HCT in schools has high and predictable likelihood of putting large numbers of children are risk of harm, including:

1. Significant challenges to meeting essential requirements of: voluntary testing, Informed choice and confidentiality in school setting.

2. On-going support services and systems for mental health and social support are weak, fragmentary and not well integrated with health services.

3. Serious Mental health and behaviour risks - Children in South Africa already suffer high rates of mental health problems. Mental health problems are known to dramatically increase post-HIV

diagnosis. Adolescents’ mental health and developmental needs mean that they have special needs, which are not currently addressed in our schools and health services.

4. Lack of Child protection services and support in schools.

5. Criminalisation and obligation to report 12-16 yo engaged in sexual activities. While there is a court challenge, currently Sections 15 and 16 of Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 criminalise children between the ages of 12 and 16 years if they consent to kissing, ‘petting’ or acts of sexual penetration. Anyone who knows that consenting sexual activity is happening has a duty to report it to the police as a sexual offence. This includes their friends and parents. The existing hostile environment towards teens who are sexually active, combined with the Sexual Offences Act places children at risk of criminal prosecution.

The Minister of Health appreciated our concerns and responded by supporting a different approach to supporting Teens Testing.

We have advocated for, raised awareness and mobilised for HIV testing for children including infants, especially abandoned babies, and teens. We intend to continue this support. The HCT campaign opens unique opportunities for teens to both prevent new infections, to receive support for their sexual and reproductive health rights, to open discussions in families between children and adults about important life issues, and to ensure teens with HIV get on and stay on treatment as well as to receive the care and support they require for their holistic health. We seek to work with government to realise the campaign’s potential.

To date, the key success is that the Minister of Health of South Africa has halted the testing of teens in schools until the HCT in schools strategy and implementation plan is revised in line with agreements and concerns. The Minister is working with civil society and key stakeholders to ensure that there is adequate planning and measures in place before the mass testing of teens is rolled out in high schools in South Africa. Attached is a media briefing released by the Yezingane Network that outlines the concerns and advocacy points around mass testing of teens in schools.

Nov 1, 2010

Update: Children with HIV living postively in SA

During September 2010 we received 2 separate requests from organisations in Zambia, both working around supporting children in vulnerable circumstances including those living with HIV/AIDS. The requests were to adapt certain aspects of the My Living Positively Handbook for use by Zambian children, to reprint 1000 of these books and distribute them to children living with HIV/AIDS in various districts in Zambia. These 2 requests were very exciting for us, as it is evident that My Living Positively books are a great support and treatment literacy resource that extends into the boundaries of Southern Africa. We are currently working with these organisations to fulfill their requests and we will be very excited to hear about how useful the children and their families found the book.

 As part of our work around HIV/AIDS disclosure with children and caregivers, we were confronted with a case of parent requesting advice on how to disclose the child’s as well as the parent’s HIV status to the child. The child is about 11 years old, HIV-positive and has been receiving ARV treatment (antiretroviral) for a long time. The child’s mother is also HIV-positive and on treatment and has never spoke openly about either of them being HIV-positive. The mother felt that it was the right time to speak to her child; however she wasn’t really sure how to do this, and she therefore sought help from the CRC. We referred the mother to an organisation, Zoé Life, who specializes in providing psychosocial support to children living with HIV/AIDS. Zoé Life reported that they have been working closely with the mother and her child, assisting them through the disclosure process. It is encouraging that parents/caregivers are willing to disclose to their children.

 The case in point raised a concern however that in South Africa much of the advocacy and work on treatment, care and support has been directed to people accessing treatment through the public health sector and very rightly so. South Africa has HIV support groups for children, adults and caregivers in most public health care settings. The situation is very different for people accessing treatment in the private health sector, as in the case of this mother and her child. There is very little or no support mechanisms in place, for people and children living with HIV/AIDS in private health care settings. It has started us to question how can we bridge the divide and ensure that anybody accessing treatment in public and private health care systems can readily make use of the support and services available to them.

 During October we had planned to have reprinted our English Handbooks, however we have not met this target due to the very intense nature of work that that has swept over us. We have put plans in place to ensure the reprinting happens in early 2011.

 During the second quarter of 2010, South Africa embarked on a mass campaign providing health care provider initiated HIV-testing to all South Africans, as part of a larger health screening campaign. We are very excited about the possibilities of getting more people and children tested for HIV and onto treatment, care and support. We are at the same time advocating for our systems to support and respond to the growing numbers of people who will be going through the health care system.

 It is truly an exciting time for South Africa in terms of the HIV epidemic. We are now moving full-steam ahead to turn the tide!


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