• families-matter-logo
  • Category: HIV Prevention Education
  • Country: South Africa

Families Matter! is focused on equipping parents and caregivers to fulfill their potential as primary educators for pre-adolescents.  The program combats HIV by empowering these influencers to teach their children about healthy HIV prevention practices. 

The home is a primary learning environment, and for pre-adolescents ages 9-12, this is one of the places where they will learn what to do – or what not to do – with regards to sex.  They are learning from their parents and caregivers, whether these individuals are actively teaching them or not.  In the areas in which we work, not only do many parents not know how to talk to their children about sex, but even if they did they themselves do not have a good grasp of puberty, sex, or sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

What is Families Matter?

fm-1Families Matter! is an evidence-based program that was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Originally called Parents Matter! when implemented in the US, the program was adapted for the South African context and HEF was recommended by CDC to be one of the implementing organizations of the South African pilot (2010-2012).  It was designed to equip adult family members or guardians with effective communication skills regarding sex and HIV.  Specifically, parents of children 9-12 years of age are invited to participate.  The FMP goals are achieved through five 3-hour sessions taught by certified facilitators.  Facilitators work in pairs (male and female) and teach prescribed lessons dealing with factual data on STD’s as well as parenting techniques they can use for instructing their children.   The sessions are interactive, enabling parents to practice communication skills and seek further information on difficult points.  Parents graduate only if they have completed all five sessions.  A follow-up session is conducted 6 months later to review information and to allow participants to share stories of their interactions with their children.

Current Work

We currently oversee Families Matter! in three locations across South Africa. Orange Farm, located near Johannesburg, is the largest informal settlement in the country, home to nearly 350,000 inhabitants.  Many of these are unemployed and making their living by informal means. Nquthu, in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, is a rural area with a shrinking population and an unemployment rate of 44%.  Homes are separated by large areas of land, making transportation difficult particularly in winter weather.  Our sites in Cape Town are located outside of the city in the townships, which are a mix of formal housing and shacks.

fm-4While in different locations, all of our sites are low-income communities where there is little knowledge to assist inhabitants in combatting HIV/AIDS.  The program is meeting a need in the communities for knowledge, and also for hope. One participant explained it this way:

“The program helped me to understand my children and to communicate with them about what is going on in their bodies. It makes me proud to be a parent because…things that my parents didn’t give me when I was young, this program gives me the opportunity to give to my children. I see the future of my children is very bright. I’m proud of it.”


So far, nearly 5,000 parents and caregivers have graduated from Families Matter!.  We have grown from having 1 facilitator pair in 2010 to having 7 in 2013, and we expect more growth to come. Our site staff are committed and excited about the program.


We are looking to add more facilitator pairs to our site in Nqutu this fall.  Each facilitator pair increases our annual capacity by nearly 600 participants.

Another major area of focus going forward is the capacity-building of our site staff.  They are committed and eager to learn more skills that will enable them to expand the services they provide.  Xolile, our site manager in Nqutu, wants to learn more about assisting survivors of abuse.  “I want to learn how to assist parents in responding to abuse, both physical and sexual.  I want to learn how to not take these things personally and be affected by participants’ stories, but to professionally assist victims of abuse.”


    Efficacy of Parent-Based Sexual-Risk Prevention Program for African American Preadolescents
   Evaluation of a US Evidence-Based Parenting Intervention in rural Western Kenya

   Poulsen et al, Cultural Adaptation of US Evidence-Based Parenting Intervention for rural Western Kenya