Former US presidential candidate John Kerry has given the thumbs up to the Valley Trust caregivers for their dedication in dealing with HIV-Aids, but at the same time challenged the South African government on their policy of not revealing statistics on the disease.
Kerry visited the Umgeni Primary School and homes in the impoverished area of KwaNgcolosi near Hillcrest in Durban on Friday. The area has a high number of vulnerable and HIV-Aids orphans who are forced to be parents to their young siblings.
The Valley Trust caregivers work with 16 local schools and take care of orphans. They address the HIV-Aids pandemic through activities such as music, drama, sports and educational support. The trust is supported by the US president's emergency plan for Aids relief.
Kerry played a key role in passing the plan as a member of the US senate's foreign relations committee. The plan provides about R100billion in aid to fight the pandemic in Africa, including South Africa.
The local caregivers told Kerry that their main challenge was making the community aware of the statistics of HIV-Aids in the area. They said they could not reveal the extent of the pandemic because they might step on the toes of the authorities "who did not want to tell the truth about the killer disease".
Kerry asked why the authorities refused to release statistics on Aids. "They do not want to give the correct information because they are in denial," he said.
Kerry praised the caregivers for the work they were doing in their communities.
"I'm impressed by the role played by the caregivers to uplift the lives of the community."
Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz also visited struggling single mothers in their dilapidated mud houses.