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Lapeng Lighthouse Project continues shattering the deathly silence surrounding HIV/AIDS

As southern Africa's most lethal and widespread pandemic, HIV/AIDS should be at the forefront of our national conscience. Yet the disease remains partially hidden behind the destructive shadow of stigma, preventing any comprehensive and collective action. Now the visionary Lapeng Lighthouse Project, an initiative which began in 2004 by Dr. Marlin J. McKay, an HIV/AIDS expert, is setting an example of how individual communities can be empowered to tackle the problem.
"The Lapeng Lighthouse Project seeks to debunk harmful stigmas and combat discrimination which is associated with HIV, homosexuality and substance abuse," explains Dr. McKay, who has been funding the Lighthouse from his own pocket with some material assistance from suppliers since its inception.

Help is at hand. As part of their socio economic development programme, Grey SA boss Tim Byrne handed over a cheque of R58 586 to Dr McKay, at the temporary premises of the Lighthouse in Noordgesig (Soweto). Byrne also confirmed the donation of several computers to the project, in what would be developed into a technology hub in the community.

More to it than just money

Byrne says that the involvement is more than a financial contribution. "We are going to encourage our staff to get physically involved in the Lighthouse, from volunteering services, to providing pro bono services. What started out as a request for vitamins from ACA CEO Odette Roper has progressed to this donation and our committed ongoing involvement."

Lapeng is currently running an aggressive education campaign in Noordgesig, providing counselling and testing facilities as an entry report for prevention, treatment, care and support. The project also offers community-based services which include home-based care, palliative care, and future planning. In addition, Lapeng provides orphans and vulnerable children with access to grants and pensions.

"We are sending out the message that HIV/AIDS is a manageable disease, and no longer a death sentence," adds McKay. "People living with HIV need to be provided with treatment, care and support in order to maintain a healthy and positive outlook, and this is what Lapeng is striving to achieve."

Since he became involved with the pandemic in 1995, McKay has built up extensive theoretical and practical knowledge of the national and global implications of HIV/AIDS - at the social, economic and political level. In addition, McKay has devoted considerable time to HIV/AIDS education within the communities that he serves, focusing on advocacy and awareness.

"The Lapeng Lighthouse Project is carrying out an incredibly valuable and important mission, and I have no doubt that it is altering the course of many lives," says McKay.
Read more: Grey SA, Tim Byrne

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