© 2019 by Melissa Wozniak. All rights reserved.

Kidzpositive 

Cape Town, South Africa

In 2001, HIV/AIDS raged through South Africa unchecked, like a fire on an oil field, as government officials stood by in stages of denial and inaction. With funding from a UK-based charity, a group of doctors formed Kidzpositive to administer antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to children at Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital. It was the first time in sub-Saharan Africa, outside of drug trials, that children could access ARVs at a public healthcare institution. When the South African government finally rolled out its national ARV program in 2004, more than 250 children and 100 mothers were already receiving treatment through Kidzpositive. The research collaboration it formed with health care teams from neighboring countries led to major advances in sub-Saharan Africa's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Today, Kidzpositive provides health care services to more than 1,500 children and adolescents at clinic sites across Cape Town. The biggest challenge facing HIV patients isn't managing the disease, howeverit's addressing the symptoms of poverty. In addition to medical care, Kidzpositive trains Xhosa-speaking counselors to run support groups, intervene in social work situations, and increase health literacy. Occupational therapists train mothers in home-based early childhood education techniques to establish a strong foundation for formal schooling. And an income-generating Positive Beadwork Project provides weekly financial security to mothers to feed their families, as well as mentorship to adolescents who don't have one.

The biggest proof of progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS? Kidzpositive's original pediatric patients are now strong, healthy teenagers, and the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission is virtually zero.

In the eight months I spent with Kidzpositive at Groote Schuur Hospital, I shadowed doctors and counselors to understand the many layers of challenges in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis. A major funding request I penned secured multi-year foundational support for the organization. Through a series of art therapy workshops coordinated in partnership with a local education nonprofit, teenage patients worked through emotions about their status to create a book for the U.S.-based Sketchbook Project titled "The Secret and How To Tell It." Professional artists from across South Africa contributed work to appear alongside as a gesture of support. You can view the book at the Brooklyn Art Library in New York or through this digital link.

I continued fundraising in the States was asked to serve on Kidzpositive's U.S. board of directors.

“Ms. Wozniak distinguished herself in our organization through the manner in which she developed deep insights into the world of families dealing with HIV/AIDS. She brought her many skills to bear on the problems and challenges she identified and made a real and practical contribution to our service. Our organization benefited greatly from the care she brought to her work and from her unusual combination of attributes and gifts: orderly, meticulous and considerate creativity.”

 

—Dr. Paul Roux, co-founder and director of Groote Schuur Hospital Pediatric HIV/AIDS service

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Melissa

wozniak