Although the Western Cape has as yet the lowest percentage of prevalence of HIV of South Africa's nine provinces, the Aids pandemic is slowly making itself felt in the winelands as it spreads out into the more rural corners. Warning lights have been flickering for some time that the Boland farm labourer communities might become an Aids danger zone, warned Francis Jacobs, a health worker of the Provincial Administration Western Cape, under supervision of the Boland District Municipality. The Boland District's mayor, Clarence Johnson, has emphasised that awareness and communication are priorities. Socio-economic factors contribute greatly to the acceleration in the transmission of HIV/Aids. These include high levels of poverty, alcohol abuse and illiteracy. Other contributing factors are women's economic dependency, their low status in relationships, physical abuse and rape. There is still a great deal of denial and stigma accompanying the disease. The biggest community problem to be dealt with, alongside finding caregivers to look after the terminally ill, is the increase in the incidence of Aids orphans, with an estimated figure of some 50 000 Aids orphans in the Western Cape predicted in the near future. A number of initiatives are addressing these problems and plans are in place to deal with the rise of incidences of HIV/Aids in the Western Cape, with both health activists and volunteers being mobilised. It is essential that all role players work together to curb the impact of HIV/Aids on the farming community.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a serious problem in the Western Cape, with recent research showing that up to 11% of children living on wine farms suffer from this syndrome. These children are born with a lifelong disability which affects not only their physical growth and development, but also their mental ability, behaviour and social skills, as a result of the mother drinking excessive amounts of alcohol during pregnancy. Without specialist education, children with FAS struggle to cope in mainstream schools and do not have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge which will enable them to become independent adults and achievers within their communities. A number of projects are addressing this problem.
A number of projects are addressing this problem. These include FASfacts, a non-profit organisation established in 2002 to educate communities about the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the negative impact people with FAS have on society; and the Pebbles Project, which was established in 2004 by Sophia Warner, a special needs teacher from the UK, to offer support to children with special educational needs, particularly those whose lives have been negatively impacted by alcohol.