HIV / AIDS: A big problem in South Africa and also in our local community. With the right medication people living with HIV can lead a long and normal life but not everyone volunteers to be tested or adheres to their treatment plan.
We operate in a rural area with many people living out of town on farms or in our local township, Khethani; there are insufficient jobs for the number of people in the area leading to high unemployment. For the unemployed it is difficult to afford the taxi fare to the hospital which is around 20km away from Winterton; this is where patients can be tested for HIV, attend training on medication adherence and be initiated onto treatment. For those in employment it is challenging for them to get the necessary time off work, firstly for testing and then for regular collection of medication and blood tests.
It is very important for people to know their status as early as possible and for those who are HIV positive to obtain treatment and to continue with their medication without interruption for the rest of their lives.
In June 2010, the Isibani Centre, was given the necessary approval by the Department of Health to set up an on- site VCT Clinic. VCT means Voluntary Counselling and Testing and describes the confidential procedure that is followed when someone decides, on a voluntary basis, to take a HIV test. Since then many people have taken the opportunity to be tested at Isibani. Between February and May 2014 there were approximately 300 clients tested. The results of the test can be life changing and it is vital that clients are properly counselled before and after taking the test. Isibani has a team of volunteers who have been trained in how to conduct the pre and post test counselling as well as the actual test itself.
For clients who have received a positive result Isibani is then able to provide adherence training. This is designed to help clients come to terms with their condition, understand the implications of living with HIV and the necessary drug administration together with any required lifestyle changes.
HIV- positive patients are also referred to the ARV clinic at Emmaus hospital where their CD4 count is measured. This test measures the number of immune cells in the blood and is necessary to determine if a patient is eligible to start on ARVs. Unfortunately it can take up to a week to get these results during which time a patient’s health can deteriorate rapidly.
When clients start on ARVs they can decide where to collect their medication: either from Emmaus Hospital or from Isibani. Every week pharmacists from the hospital come to Isibani to hand out ARVs to clients. Our team of volunteers assist with this process by collecting important information about the client’s health and advising them on lifestyle changes that could improve their health.
We do our best to enable people who are living with HIV to live a life that is as normal as possible.