Steve Mabena is actively working to stem the rise of HIV/Aids in Africa’s youth – and ensuring health for all sectors of the population.
In addition to studying for his MBChB at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – which takes up most of his time – Stefaans ‘Steve’ Mabena is also focused on his involvement in the youth leadership team for the Johnson and Johnson UNFPA United Nations Population Fund project, launched in May 2018.
He is involved in both the design and the rollout of the youth-friendly activation programme, which was launched with the aim of decreasing the level of HIV/Aids among South Africa’s youth, with a focus on capacitating adolescent girls through peer-education.
The programme will empower young girls around three pillars: leadership, employability and sexual reproductive health.
Public health is Steve’s passion. He is looking forward to graduating as a medical doctor and is enthusiastic about his future plans to specialise in the field. “I want to use my degree to impact the lives of people living in rural disadvantaged areas,” he declares.
His commitment to the cause is based on pure need. “I strongly believe that disadvantaged people deserve treatment of the same standard as those who are financially able to afford private medical care,” he says. “A large majority of infected or otherwise ill people in South Africa’s rural communities cannot access healthcare facilities because of the long distances they have to travel to urban areas,” he explains.
Steve intends starting up an initiative to provide mobile clinics nation-wide. “In addition to this, I would like to create a team of my fellow medical professionals to visit the rural areas once a week in order to help treat and monitor the sick who are unable to travel and cannot afford the help of high-standard medical professionals,” he adds.
Steve was born and raised in Bronkhorstspruit, and attended Gauteng’s Ekangala Comprehensive High school. His family may not have been financially well off, but his home was one of great love, he says.
“My parents gave me life and they gave me love. My mom has always been my biggest inspiration. She taught me the most important values – how to take care of myself, to be myself, to love myself and to love other people around me,” he says.
After he had completed his first year at University on a REAP scholarship, Steve did not have the funding to continue to his second year. Although he had applied for the Moshal Scholarship, it had not yet been awarded – and he struggled to survive.
He was squatting at a friend’s place and had no means of even feeding himself. He was about to return home when he got the call from Moshal to let him know that he had been awarded the scholarship. Steve says that phone call changed his life.
Apart from the financial security the scholarship provided, Steve has benefited greatly from being a part of the Moshal family. “Moshal has taught me the values of integrity and accountability, perseverance and humility and above all, caring for others,” he says.
Meeting Martin Moshal, the founder of the Program, hugely inspired Steve. “He is so generous, giving back to people he doesn’t know and helping those who are disadvantaged to better their lives. He’s played a huge role in inspiring me to do what I’m doing now, as part of the UNFPA program. I want to be like him – to lead a life of giving back to others,” says Steve.
One of the best things about university life is that it has allowed him to meet people from diverse backgrounds, different races and cultures, all working together. And being a part of the Moshal program means he always has support and assistance when needed, adds Steve. “Our program co-ordinator at UKZN is always there to support us. I’m so grateful to her – she has been amazing” he says.
Steve also relies on his own inner strength and resilience to see him through the tough times. “Sometimes I get down, but then I talk to myself and pump myself with motivation. I know nobody will fight for me until I fight for myself,” he says.
Steve finds balance with regular meditation and self-reflection. “Since I’ve been a spiritual person I’m more self-aware and I’m more aware of my world. It’s made me more empathetic and kinder to people,” he says.
To those struggling to achieve their dreams, Steve advises: “Live your truth. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to be unique, because that is what makes you who you are,” he encourages. “Never ever stop being true to yourself. Live the life you were born to live – a life that brings Love and Light that impacts on you and touches other people. This is how I am trying to live my life.”