Tapologo HIV/AIDS Programme was founded in 1997 when both Bishop Kevin Dowling and Sister Georgina Boswell were faced with the dramatic and dire situation being faced by the poorer communities with the advent of HIV and AIDS. The Bishop was so concerned that he not only facilitated the advert of Tapologo but advocated strongly for a response from local leaders, local mining groups and corporates, nationally and internationally. In fact, the Catholic fraternity within the Rustenburg region in general responded strongly to support their goals.
“Tapologo” is a Setswana word, which translates to “a place of rest, of healing, of compassion, of hope”. This is the vision of the programme at large. The founders chose to collaborate with people from diverse faiths and backgrounds who shared and united around this vision – people who would bring their own value systems to what Tapologo strove to achieve in response to the tragedy of HIV and Aids in this region. The dedication and compassion of a dynamic and diverse team who daily work towards achieving their vision and who bring dignity, healing, hope and life to thousands of vulnerable children and adults since its conception in May 1997 has carried this programme to its current success.
Tapologo operates within the Bojanala District (Rustenburg) of the North West province in South Africa. This region is renowned for its platinum mining activities and hosts a few local and international mining houses. It also has a moderate agricultural sector which focuses on diverse crops and cattle. Over the years the economic activities performed in this area have resulted in an influx of migrant workers from neighbouring rural areas within South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
Unfortunately, this area is rife with social, economic and political injustices such as high levels of unemployment, deep poverty, poor health systems, poor education systems, high levels of gender-based violence and an increasing rate of informal housing settlements with inappropriate infrastructure and systems.
Due to this influx of migrants there are no official statistics which highlight the exact number of people living in this region. Public services to aid this community are scarce and basic services such as access to schools, health clinics and police stations are under strain. Additionally, most informal homes in this area have no access to running water, proper sanitation/ablution services or electricity.
Unemployment rates are critically high, most inhabitants of this region who are not employed by the local mining houses or farms are forced into scarce entrepreneurial activities which the local community often cannot afford. This results in high levels of criminal activities, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sex work, increased number of child headed households and poor education levels.
Globally, Tapologo HIV/AIDS Programme aligns to the United Nations Strategic Development Goals 1: No Poverty, 3: Good health and well-being, 10: Reduced Inequalities and 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. As a region, Sub-Saharan Africa still carries the bulk of HIV infections. In January 2019, the World Health Organisation reported that South Africa has the fourth highest HIV prevalence rate in Africa with 18.90% of the population testing positive for the virus. Lack of education, misguided beliefs about the disease, and sexual violence have contributed to these high rates. According to the National Development Plan set out by the South African government, Tapologo HIV/AIDS Programme falls within Chapter 10: Equal health care for all, Chapter 11: social protection and Chapter 12: Building safer communities.