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Mandela leads sexual health awareness drive

FIGHTING FIT: Swati Mandela is campaigning on sexual health

THE GRANDDAUGHTER of Nelson Mandela has told The Voice of her determination to raise awareness of sexual health issues in the black community.

Swati Mandela linked the need for people of African and Caribbean heritage to address HIV infection rates in the community to the ongoing global struggle for social justice and racial equality.

According to recent figures from NAZ, the sexual health charity dedicated to delivering culturally specific sexual health services, 45 per cent of all people accessing HIV support and care in the UK are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, despite this community accounting for only 13 per cent of the general population.

Furthermore, in 2016, 65 per cent of Black African heterosexual men and 49 per cent of Black African heterosexual women were diagnosed late. Late diagnosis (when the virus has already significantly damaged the immune system) increases risk of other health problems among people living with HIV. Late diagnosis is associated with a ten-fold increase in the risk of death within one year of diagnosis and vastly increases the risk of onward transmission.

Speaking ahead of the nOSCARS, NAZ’s annual event highlighting the people, programmes and media making a positive difference to the sexual health outcomes of the BAME community, Ms Mandela told The Voice:

FREEDOM
“The march towards freedom is long and arduous, and in order for us to keep going, to keep fighting the small quotidian battles of our lives and the grander, more dramatic freedom battles playing out on the world stage, you must practice self-care and self-love. My grandparents did that. I do that. And you must do that.”

She added: “We need our people fighting fit and strong, ready to fight for themselves and each other because our lives matter. Sexual and mental health are social justice issues and together, we will surmount the odds, big and small, for the liberation of us all.”


SUPPORT: Marion Wadibia, CEO of NAZ, says late diagnosis in black African communities is a persisting inequality

Ms Mandela said there was a clear link between her family’s illustrious legacy and NAZ’s mission to improve sexual health outcomes in BAME communities.

She said: “As I reflect upon the upcoming nOSCARS, I think about my grandmother and her tireless activism for the lives and health of women in apartheid South Africa. She never shied away from topics and issues about which others wanted to remain silent. She thought it was important to fight for women, in whatever situations they were in, because she understood that the key to freeing all of us was breaking the shackles around women.”

Marion Wadibia, CEO of NAZ, told The Voice: “We welcome Swati Mandela’s efforts to raise awareness of the important issue of sexual heath and its link to some of the wider struggles that the black community faces.

“Late diagnosis in black African communities is a persisting inequality. Women and black men who have sex with men do not have the same access to biomedical advances as their white counterparts. Sexually transmitted infections (STI) rates are also markedly higher in black communities. Invariably linked to these disproportionalities is a lack of culturally specific and relevant messaging and programmes to effect lasting behaviour change.”

Wadibia continued: “NAZ continues to work closely with the communities we seek to impact and we are honoured to have Swati involved to help spread the messages of the importance of testing regularly for HIV and STIs and taking control of our sexual and mental health. NAZ is here to provide support, testing and advocacy for BAME communities and we have an in-depth understanding of the barriers, cultural and otherwise, that may prevent black Africans from seeking out health-improving services. You are not alone.”

For further information about the nOSCARS please visit naz.org.uk.

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