Palesa Ramakhetheng is a beneficiary at Khomanani community-based organisation in Vlakfontein in the south of the City of Johannesburg, sub-district G. Khomanani is one of HIVSA’s 39 sub-partners implementing the HIV/AIDS in Vulnerable Populations (PHVP) Program. The centre provides several services such as nutritional support, and homework assistance and was previously implementing the DREAMS Program including the Choma Innovation Café.
Khomanani received a Choma Innovation Café from HIVSA. The Choma Innovation Cafés aim to support Programmes such as the PHVP Programme that is currently being implemented at Community-Based Organisations, this is done by providing online information on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and other health-related information as well as creating a safe space for interaction on the abovementioned subjects for 10 – 19-year-old Adolescent Girls & Young Women (AGYW) and boys. The Choma Innovation Cafes were funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. Palesa Ramakhetheng was one of the young girls who accessed the café. She is from a single-parent household. The household depends on Child support grant and food packs they receive from Khomanani Health Group.
Palesa was enrolled in the Choma Café in 2017 at the age of 12 years. She attended structured interventions on SRH offered in the Café as well as Vhutshilo 1 sessions. Vhutshilo 1 is a structured intervention that aims to educate young people between the ages of 10 and 14 safe from HIV and STIs. In 2019 Palesa was appointed as a member of the Child Advisory Board (CAB). The purpose of the CAB is to engage and empower youth along with their families and communities to ensure that youth are empowered to reach their full potential by being given a platform in which to express themselves. Palesa took on program leadership responsibilities by actively providing input to the program and informing them how the program is best implemented for them, this involves having a close relationship with onsite facilitators and providing ongoing feedback. Through the SRH sessions, Palesa learnt about different ways of preventing HIV. She was tested for HIV, and she knows her status. In 2020 she was initiated on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and she is still on PrEP to date. PrEP is medicine youth at risk of contracting HIV take to prevent getting HIV. Palesa continues to take PrEP to ensure she stays HIV-negative.
Palesa also had the opportunity to access the Choma café for school research and homework assistance. Although she has always been a good student, Palesa gives credit to the Choma Café for passing her Grade 12 with a Diploma in 2022. She is awaiting acceptance at one of the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges she applied to. According to Palesa.
“Choma made me fit in at school. No one could see my struggles and that I could not afford data.”