At CMMT our dedication to human health transcends geographical borders. We recognize our responsibilities as global citizens and are committed to making a difference in the lives of children and adults everywhere in the world.
In December of 2005, Michael Hayden attended his medical Class of 1975 reunion at the University of Cape Town. One of the defining aspects of this 30th reunion anniversary was the shared recognition of the hardships of the past and acknowledgment of the profound challenges that South Africa is still facing today, particularly HIV/AIDS and its devastating impact on young South Africans.
This dialogue sparked Michael to pursue the idea of uniting his classmates and the broader community in a meaningful effort to bring some benefit to the young men and women living with HIV/AIDS, specifically in the township of Masiphumelele (Masi) outside Cape Town.
The South African AIDS epidemic is considered one of the worst in the world with roughly 2,000 people infected daily, around 60 percent whom are under the age of 25. The experiences in Masiphumelele exposed the compelling need to reach adolescents as one of the primary means of stemming the tide of HIV/AIDS. Approximately 23 percent of the Masi population is HIV positive, 40 percent of which are youth, and in particular young women aged 20 to 29. The uncontrolled spread of HIV infection in these adolescents is fueled to a large extent by high-risk sexual behaviours, a fear of HIV testing due to stigma, lack of youth-friendly services and feelings of alienation.
In response to the enormity of the epidemic and its unforgiving effect on young South Africans, Michael has spearheaded a campaign to establish a youth centre in Masiphumelele providing recreation, education, skills training and sexual health services to young men and women, ages 8 to 24.
The Masiphumelele Youth Centre, to be established in partnership with Cape Town’s Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and Foundation of which the Archbishop Desmond Tutu is Honorary Chair, will aim to nurture the positive development of Masi youth in order to help reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS in young men and women. The objectives of the youth centre are to promote safer sexual choices in adolescents, increase the rates of HIV testing and voluntary counseling and create income-generating opportunities to secure a brighter future. Outcomes will be closely monitored. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recently donated R 200,000 to support the important project. Dr. James Orbinski, Past-President of Medecins Sans Frontieres and Founder & President of Dignitas International, has also provided his endorsement of the effort.