Reaching for better lives

Leslie van Rooyen’s wish is for more Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people to get tested for HIV-Aids.

Mr Van Rooyen is the director of the Reach For Life Foundation (RFL) which operates in Manenberg, Hanover Park, Bonteheuwel and Heideveld.

He said he and his team established the foundation in 2010 as a safe house for the LGBTI community where they provided counselling, HIV/Aids testing and accommodation.

The RFL recently partnered with the Enhancing Care Foundation to reach more LGBTI people and help them get tested for HIV/AIDS and give them the support they need.

He said by hosting awareness programmes and door-to-door campaigns about sex education and the importance of getting tested, the foundation hopes to eradicate the stigma attached to LGBTI people and hopefully prevent more suicides.

Mr Van Rooyen, 40, grew up in Manenberg.

Being a transgender person himself, he said he understands how difficult life can be – especially when transgender people are rejected by their families.

His wish is for them to feel welcomed in society and for them to be able to get tested at clinics without being judged.

“We want people to come out and speak to us and get counselling.

“If their families are finding it hard to accept it they can bring them with and we will help them. People must understand that they can trust as we are bound to confidentiality,” he said.

Mr Van Rooyen said the foundation hopes to one day establish a call centre for LGBTI people to work in as he knows it is difficult for them to get jobs.

He added that the families of LGBTI people must learn to accept them as they are.

“They did not choose to be they way they are. They were born like that. We will help them to find a way to tell their families if they are scared. We will walk the road with them,” said Mr Van Rooyen.

For more information call Leslie on 078 921 0825, or the Reach For Life Foundation on 021 802 5881 or the Enhancing Care Foundation on 021 418 0977.