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First-hand: making a difference, one person at a time

Khutso Semosa as told to Tinashe Madamombe

27 February 2024

Khutso Semosa, is a young gay man and youth advocate in Freedom Park, South Africa. He shares what he’s learnt from his work providing home-based care to people in his community

Everyone should have the support they need

They say hard work really does pay off, and I have seen it first-hand. Back when I was still studying, I joined Ikusasa Lethu Youth Project as a student intern. Once I finished my studies, they welcomed me back with open arms to be part of the home-based care programme called Gogo Khulu. I believe they accepted me back because I have that hardworking spirit in me, and I genuinely love what I do. I'm also lucky to be part of an awesome team. We're all about love and respect, which makes our work environment super relaxed. We've learned how to tackle problems and find common ground, making our workspace welcoming for everyone involved. It's all about spreading the love and making a real difference where we can.

In our work, we've realised that HIV and AIDS are not isolated issues. When I am out doing home-based care in my community, I do not just focus on HIV – I also pay attention to people dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, or recovering from strokes. The truth is, many of them are affected by or living with HIV and AIDS. When we engage with the community, we go door-to-door to chat with people of all ages about their health. These talks help us find people who might need our support, and we make sure every conversation is confidential.

Sometimes, people want to talk specifically about HIV, and we make sure those conversations stay private. If I encounter a situation I can't handle on my own such as someone needing further services like HIV testing or counseling, I team up with counselors who we work closely with at the youth center. We are all about collaboration. Our main goal is to ensure that everyone gets the support they need, right where they need it.

Stories of progress and recovery

In my experience, I've noticed that many people in my community are not familiar with PrEP. I have taken the initiative to share information about PrEP during our health talks, and I have seen positive results. One person I spoke with decided to seek treatment at a health facility after learning about PrEP from me. Our detailed discussions during these talks have helped people understand HIV and AIDS better, including the treatment options available. I have seen that this understanding reduces their fears when they visit health facilities for treatment.

Part of my job involves following up with clients we have referred to health facilities. Currently, I'm working with clients who are on HIV treatment. I make it a point to check in with them daily to ensure they're sticking to their treatment and understand its importance.

I have had some incredibly rewarding moments while working in my community. One example stands out from 2020 when I was assisting a client who lives alone. Through our home-based care program, I helped with cleaning, cooking meals, and ensuring they took their medication. Over the course of a few months, the client progressed from being bedridden to being able to walk and talk again. It's moments like these that remind me of the positive impact we can have on people's lives.

Lessons from my own journey

Working with the community definitely has its challenges, but what I have learnt is that there's always a way to tackle them, sometimes even before they manifest. As a gay man, I've faced judgment at times, but I have found that being confident in who I am has helped me overcome this challenge. Embracing my true self has attracted positive energy, drawing people towards me.

I've also adopted a personal policy of openness with those I work with. I encourage direct communication and discourage gossip or speculation behind my back. This approach has significantly reduced conflicts and misunderstandings.

To families with LGBTQ+ members, I urge you to fully embrace and support them. From my own journey, I've discovered that acceptance and love from family provide the greatest confidence. When you feel loved and accepted at home, you can overcome anything in the world.

To young people aspiring to work directly with communities, I offer this advice: Work hard, because it truly does pay off. But more importantly, cultivate a genuine love for people and the work you will be doing. When you're passionate about what you do, it stops being just a job and becomes a meaningful impact that you leave behind.

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