HIVSA’s training changes lives

HIVSA operates a training centre, which is registered with the HWSETA to provide accredited and non-accredited training courses and programmes to support lay counsellors. The programme is supported by USAID through a PEPFAR grant to the Anova Health Institute, of which HIVSA is a sub-grantee. HIVSA supports the Department of Health’s Regional Training Centre in the Gauteng Province, speci fically in the Johannesburg regions of C, D, E and G.

Who is Elias Kobe

Elias Kobe was raised in a single parent household. Life was challenging for him and his family. When he was in high school, he worked (to assist his family) as a caddy at the golf course. He left his job at the golf course to continue and finish his schooling. He completed his Matric in 1997.

He began working as a Counsellor for HIV testing programme and ART readiness programme, for the Department of Social Development – West Rand Region, Krugersdorp in January 2002. He is currently serving as a member of the Community Health Workers Forum in the Mogale City Sub-district.

He achieved an award in recognition of his dedication to the health and wellness of communities of Gauteng Province. He received this award in 2004.

Coming face to face with HIV

The first time he learned about HIV was scary. People were dying. After telling some people about their HIV-positive status, many of the people would commit suicide. He thankfully had positive support from the facility manager who would debrief with him.

Before attending trainings for HIV, he had a negative attitude about HIV. He also felt that it would never happen to him, it was something that happened to other people; until he found out that his aunt was HIV-positive. She had been raped, and after about 8 months she was diagnosed HIV-positive. She was depressed, had TB and was being visited by home-based carers. Unfortunately, she was not able to disclose her status to her family as there was a lot of stigma around being HIV-positive. Condom negotiation and adherence to treatment was not common. His Aunt, unfortunately passed away.

Elias felt out of depth in the field as he had no formal training in HIV and AIDS or HIV counselling. He felt increasingly frustrated that he did not have enough knowledge to assist his clients appropriately.

Training with HIVSA during the ‘dry-season’

In 2011 he was nominated for training with HIVSA on the FETC Counselling (SAQA ID49256, NQF Level 4) Qualification

He is still working as a volunteer and is being paid a stipend. Sometimes the volunteers (Elias included) go through a period they call a “dry season” where stipends are not paid for about 3 - 4 months. During the dry season, Elias was one of the few volunteers who was lucky enough to be given some porridge by hospital staff – this food is for hospital patients. They would eat this porridge for breakfast, lunch and supper. He would also sometimes get food from his friends. If Elias had food, he would fill his stomach with water to avoid getting hungry during classes. To attend the course during the dry-season, Elias would borrow money. He decided that he would not leave his studies, because he knew that the opportunity to study might not come again.

When the dry-season ended, they would be paid in full for the outstanding months. At this point he would pay back everyone that had loaned him money, and purchase bulk groceries..

Impact of the training on his work and life in general

Elias does not regret working in the HIV counselling environment. His former girlfriend contracted HIV, and she protected him from the virus. Years ago people were very angry;they would spread the virus because they didn’t want to die alone. His girlfriend’s unselfishness amazed him.

Elias wants to pursue a career in counselling with the aim of becoming a “professional, recognised and accredited counsellor.” He wants to learn more and one day become one of the decision-makers when it comes to policy making in terms of HIV. Elias wants to study further, he also does reading and studying at the library. His dream is to be first South African volunteer to write a book about how he became successful starting as a volunteer. He wants to inspire other people and let them know that a rose can grow in a wasteland.