In the heart of Limpopo, Mokete, a young person living with HIV, visits the Matswi Clinic on a regular basis for peer support. Her Peer Educator is Cathrine Kgothatso Ramodipa , whom Mokete has nominated as a Health Provider Champion.
“Basically, being a peer educator means you have to be supporting your peers. You offer counselling and support to them,” says Cathrine. “These young people living with HIV look up to us. I will never stop doing good, especially when I am around adolescents, because whatever I do, they will notice it. I must continue being the friendly face they see at the facility and continue putting them first.”
However, growing up with HIV is difficult in rural South Africa, due to stigma and discrimination.
“I have been living with HIV for eight years now. I discovered my status in 2014. I was confused and I didn’t know what to do because I was young back then. It was hard for me to actually accept that I was HIV positive and that a lot of people might judge me when they actually discover that I am HIV positive,” says Mokete.
What did Cathrine do to make a difference in Mokete’s life?
“I nominated Cathrine for the Health Care Champion Award because when I met her in 2019, she made me feel better about myself. She always encouraged me and I developed this sisterly relationship with her because she was always there for me. She has never judged me or stigmatised me in any form or way.”
This approach has fostered a strong bond between the two women that was further strengthened by Cathrine’s ability to create a safe environment.
“She created activities for us to play and talk to each other about our HIV status. She helps us perceive the world differently with her HIV stigma-free services.”
But why is stigma-free service so important?
“It is important to offer a friendly, free space so they know they can count on us whenever they need assistance or just a service,” says Cathrine. “Health care workers should always be encouraging and listen to their patients. They need to know that they can come to you.”
Mokete says that her relationship with Cathrine has helped her focus on her future.
“I have a lot of dreams and she will always be there for me, encouraging me. I know I can always ask her for something too.”
How does Cathrine feel about her nomination?
“It has motivated to me to continue to do what I do; supporting adolescents and making a change.”