A campaign called We The Brave, funded by the Elton John Aids foundation, was launched in Sea Point last week.
It is being run by the Anova Health Institute and focuses on sexual health for gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
The three main goals of the campaign are ensuring that these men have the knowledge to prevent new HIV infections, that they understand the benefits of regular HIV testing to know their status and that they use antiretroviral treatment if they need it.
A series of events during the 10-day Cape Town Pride Festival will raise awareness.
Dr Oscar Radebe, the senior medical communications consultant at the Anova Health Institute, said the campaign is all about education and reaching out to people.
“It is for those who are unable to test themselves or might not know anything about prevention. That platform is opened up to people to be brave enough to come in and talk about such issues.”
He said the partnership between the two organisations was something that was long overdue and has enabled them to expand.
It also came at the ideal time because they were almost out of funding.
Dr Radebe said they provided direct services and training for healthcare workers.
The We The Brave campaign was originally launched in Johannesburg last year and now it has come to Cape Town.
“Capetonians need to embrace We The Brave. We are trying to reach as many people as possible through networks in the community and spaces where you find MSMs in different categories. We are coming with something that is more innovative and it is about people taking responsibility of their health. It is about people being wise enough to get themselves tested and knowing that it is not a death sentence,” said Dr Radebe.
“It’s not just targeted around gay men or MSM but people who are brave enough to support them.
“Pride week is a wonderful opportunity to destigmatise HIV and MSM. It is important to acknowledge them because they are also part of the community. I think LGBTI is a hugely overlooked area. You hear in the community that it is negative to be gay so events like this are important.”
Dr Radebe said that stigma was still one of the main challenges that faced health workers when it came to HIV.
“Since 1981 when HIV was discovered around gay men, they were stigmatised from that point. We have seen this stigma especially in the black community. A lot of the stigma comes from cultural and religious backgrounds. This launch will tell Capetonians that we are here and enable them to embrace that space.”
Cape Town Pride festival director, Matthew van As, who was at the launch, said We The Brave did a lot of good work in the community. Mr Van As added that the Cape Town Pride festival was now officially the biggest in Africa.
Cape Town Pride week runs from Friday February 19 to Sunday February 28 with the Pride March taking place on Saturday February 27, in Green Point.
We The Brave will have it’s own float – a gigantic penis spurting glitter. And, there will be testing stations on site where people can put their bravery into action. For more information visit www.wethebrave.co.za