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HST Blog

Jul 04
Inspiring men through compassion, empathy and dedication: A day in the life of HST’s Psychosocial Advisor, Nhlanhla Mazibuko

by Siyabonga Gema (HST Communications Officer)

Nhlanhka Mazibuko.jpg

As a true embodiment of community work, Nhlanhla Mazibuko reflects the values of Health Systems Trust (HST) and reminds us of what a calling to public health work should be all about.

Based in Zululand District, he has rolled up his sleeves and is hard at work, changing the lives of the most vulnerable. We caught up with Nhlanhla as he shed light on his calling to social work and his journey with HST.

When did you join HST and what does your role entail?

I joined HST on 2 January 2024 as a Community Engager for eThekwini District for the Community ART project under the supervision of Dr Douglas Ngcobo. My responsibility was to engage with the community leaders to negotiate entry for the Department of Health (DoH) and implementation of the project in different communities, and also to build stakeholder relations with community leaders. We facilitated meetings with community leaders in eThekwini to plan collaboration with the leaders and community as a whole when implementing the project. I held this role for two months, and then I was appointed as a Psychosocial Advisor for the SA SURE PRO Project in Zululand District, where I started in the role on 1 March 2024.

My current role is to provide technical assistance in the form of capacity-building on the National Department of Health's Differentiated Model of Care (DMoC) Model Standard Operating Procedures and the Zoë-Life HIV disclosure counselling Talk-tool kit to Zululand facilities. As a Psychosocial Advisor, I provide training on child and adolescent disclosure counselling, enhanced adherence counselling, improvising healthcare referral systems, forming of support groups with children and their primary caregivers, and tracking and tracing of patients who have disengaged from care. I also provide social work supervision to a Psychosocial Advisor intern who is based at Njoko Clinic. I am responsible for building good stakeholder relationships with district partners implementing child protection services in Zululand, and I work hand in hand with community-based organisations (CBOs) and the Department of Social Development (DSD). I also work with health Social Workers to conduct bi-directional referrals and plan for collaboration in the district.

Why did you choose to work in the public health space?

I chose the public health because as someone with a social work calling, I understand that being a Social Worker, you serve vulnerable individuals, groups and communities in different settings or areas and help them improve and balance their psychosocial well-being. I started working in the child protection environment at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NICRO). Thereafter I was appointed by Pact South Africa to be based at the DSD as a Government Capacity-building and Support Social Worker in Mpumalanga Province, where I provided capacity-building in HIV prevention with CBOs towards achieving the 90-90-90 HIV targets for orphans, vulnerable children and youth, and for fostered children. I developed a passion and love for implementing HIV prevention programmes and child protection services when I started at the DSD, and I continued to work with HIV services at Anova Health Institute and other public health organisations. With over 10 years of experience, I still enjoy working in public health settings.

As a man working in public health, what challenges do you encounter in engaging with other men on health matters?

Men are still afraid to take the initiative in accessing health services, even in their nearest healthcare facilities, and they do not open up to healthcare providers until they develop a sense of trust. Through engaging men on issues affecting them, and from experience in implementing men's dialogues, I have noted that men don't feel comfortable being served by female healthcare providers in clinics, and they indicate that for a man to be seen accessing healthcare services is a sign of weakness. Men want to be respected and given enough time to express themselves when talking about their health, and they tend to be afraid to report any form of abuse they experience at home, as they see this also as a form of weakness. After building a good relationship with individual men, they open up and share their personal experiences of psychosocial and biomedical issues affecting them.

Where do you think there are gaps in ensuring that men receive health care?

Men seem to be uninformed about the healthcare services rendered at their nearest facilities and as a result they tend to sit at home not accessing services, but if more community-based men's dialogues are conducted in different communities, especially in rural areas, men will learn to take responsibility of their lives and start to access services. Some men indicate that they are afraid of accessing healthcare services because of what are they are going to be informed about their health results, and if the results are not good, they don't know how they will inform their partners and they feel that this will cause conflict at home. Community education is still needed for men in different communities to help them change their mindset.

What is your biggest career highlight at HST?

Since my appointment as a Psychosocial Advisor under SA SURE PRO, I am trying my level best to make sure that there is internal programme integration or layering of services for our patients by collaborating with colleagues from other HST programmes. I led by example when we conducted a Men's Dialogue at Njoko Clinic in the KwaMandlakazi village in KwaNongoma by being at the forefront of organising the dialogue and bringing stakeholders to the gathering, as the Community ART Project did not have a male official to facilitate the event. The men in that community indicated that they prefer to engage with men about health and social issues affecting them, so as a male Psychosocial Advisor, I decided to step in and collaborate with Dr Ngcobo in successfully planning the Men's Dialogue.

What are your next career goals?

My main goal is to work towards ensuring that children, adolescents and their families live positive lives, and to help our patients achieve viral suppression and succeed with their future goals. I also plan to work towards ensuring that as HST, we integrate our programmes and support each other to reach our organisational objectives and goals. Another plan is to make sure that we build and sustain good working relationships with CBOs and government departments rendering services to the same beneficiaries served by HST.

How do you think we can empower and educate our boys to build a safer and healthier society?

It is very important to reach boys at an early age to equip them with important information about health and psychosocial issues, especially in light of the scourge of gender-based violence which is mostly perpetrated by men. We need to train our boys to support and protect their girl counterparts at an early age, and encourage them to seek professional help when encountering any issues so that they can live a positive lifestyle. We need to have regular talks with young boys in different communities to pick up issues affecting them and make sure that they are attended to or referred for help. We must make sure that child protection services, healthcare services, and psychosocial services are known in rural areas and that boys have access to them. In that way, we will be able empower and educate our young boys.


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