The Eastern Cape is one of nine Provinces in South Africa with a population of approximately 6.6 million people (2012), the third highest in the country. It has one metro, Nelson Mandela Bay, which accounts for 17% of the provincial population (District Health Barometer, HST 2011). Economically, the Eastern Cape is one of the poorest Provinces in South Africa. In the first quarter of 2012 the unemployment rate in South Africa stood at 25.2% and in the Eastern Cape at 28.3%. (Source: StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Q1 2012)
The HIV epidemic has magnified the already significant problems caused by poverty, food insecurity and gender inequality in Southern Africa. These social challenges as well as poor access to social services has further fuelled the HIV epidemic and the Joe Slovo Township in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is no exception and is one of the worse affected communities in this metropolitan area.
In response to this dire need, Sophakama, a small community based organisation, emerged in 1999. Sophakama, which means “We will Rise” has faithfully served hundreds of community members for over 10 years and provides a range of health and related support services predominantly within the Joe Slovo Township.