Future Beats Project Editor represents HEAIDS at Africa Dialogue in Berlin

HEAIDS continues to make waves, both locally and abroad. Most recently, our Future Beats Project Editor Bonita du Plessis was invited to the Africa-Continent of Opportunities: A Partnership for Change Dialogue and Conference in Berlin, Germany. Du Plessis was invited by German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller to participate in the workshop “Giving young people a future - promoting education in Africa” and was asked to deliver recommendations from the session to the parliamentary State Secretary, Thomas Silberhorn.

Mr Günter Nooke, personal representative of the German Chancellor for Africa set the tone for the session, emphasising the importance of employment-orientated education programmes and the focus of German development cooperation within tertiary education. Areas considered crucial in structuring new partnership policies  included putting the value back into vocational training and how to better equip young people with fresh perspectives. The aim is to bridge these functions to understand Africa’s needs better and gain a more realistic view of Europe through a youth exchange programme. “We must see the youth as an asset,” remarked Mr Nkosana Moyo, Chairperson of the Mandela Institute of Developmental Studies.

A key emerging question was how private industry and the state could support this type of learning and its potential for job creation in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Recommendations included aligning business development with TVET education and supporting local structures with content and capacity through ICTs.

Du Plessis joined loveLife and explored social work organisations with the potential to participate in a youth volunteer exchange programme. Fixpunkt, a harm reduction provides support for users of injectable drugs by providing alternative information around snorting or inhaling and monitoring users through facilities like a “consumption room”. They wish to reduce the danger of intravenous drug use by creating awareness around the sharing of needles and distribute clean needles from their premises and vending machines across the city. There is no criminalisation against the use of these illicit drugs if users do so in a safe space. When drug-addicted persons come in to use, they are also offered testing and counselling, and through this process, are able to make informed decisions. Although this method has seen a decrease in spread of disease as well as all-round drug use in Germany, according to the programme director, Astrid Leicht, the controversial experience left the team wondering if such an endeavour would be more counter-productive in South Africa.

Family planning programme, Profamilia also took a challenging stance against the legal system by offering support for women who wished to terminate their pregnancies. If, after consultations, the counsellor feels the person fully understands their decision, Profamilia has the authority to “approve” the abortion and pass the case on to a medical practitioner despite the procedure being illegal in Germany.

Du Plessis also visited Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe and was met by Heike Gronski who explained that Germany recorded 3 000 new infections each year and that 75% of this number was registered as MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) therefore making this their focus.

Du Plessis has brought back vital experience and insights that will be used to further the Future Beats project:  “When coming up with strategies for programmes to help the youth, it is vital to give them the platform to speak for themselves,” said du Plessis.