A new health campaign was launched at Christ The Redeemer Church in Westridge last Tuesday to ensure people living with HIV have access to treatment and care.
The Western Cape government launched their multi-sectoral undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U) campaign to encourage the benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Western Cape MEC of Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said the launch of the U=U campaign comes at a crucial time.
“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our residents were not able to continue their treatment which placed their health at risk. Despite this, our resources and services can now be reprioritised towards addressing a virus that is now endemic in our communities,” she said.
“It is crucial that we all work together to ensure that we maximise access to ARVs and address the stigmas associated with HIV, as any person one knows could be HIV positive. It is up to us to end the spread of HIV in our communities through proper collaboration with all stakeholders,” said Dr Mbombo.
For HIV+ survivor, activist and patient advocate Fiona Moore, 46, from Tafelsig, her life changed in a positive way after being in spaces and part of communities that helped her through her journey.
Ms Moore said in her 30s she felt sick and told her neighbour she wasn’t feeling well. “I visited the doctor which was the first time I got asked to have an HIV test done.
“When I found out I thought I was going to die, I was scared, I wanted to end my life. The staff at the Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre really helped me understand my status and what I’ve experienced,” she said.
The tablets scared her because it was big in size. She was sick and experienced symptoms. “I was scared to speak about my status, but we have to educate our community, our ministers and ourselves,” she said.
“Sometimes I would experience uncomfortable comments from family and neighbours due to the myths around HIV. I still stood strong through this,” she said.
“I’ve learned that HIV+ is not a death sentence. Sixteen years later God carried me through this. I am grateful for life,” she said.
Department of health spokesperson, Monique Johnstone, said ART doesn’t cure HIV infection or remove the virus from your body, but, when taken as prescribed, you can suppress the virus to such an extent that HIV will not be found or detected in your blood. And when it is undetectable, it is also untransmittable, which means you cannot pass it on to your sexual partner.
In the Western Cape, 92% of people living with HIV know their status, but only 59% of them are on ART.
It remains a concern that a relatively high number (273 949) of residents living with HIV in the province are currently not on ART, she said.
Dr Roland Kroukamp, specialist family physician at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre, said this will be the second wellness health hub at the Westridge church that will serve as a clinic on Tuesdays from 9am to 1pm. The first wellness health hub is at Montrose Park Community Hall every Wednesday between 8am and 1pm.
“The wellness hub is an extension of Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre which renders health services to the community, such as child immunisations, family planning, oral health care, collecting chronic medication, to name a few,” he said.
Amanda Hansen, facility manager at Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre, said: “It’s obvious we need to take health services to the community. Health is everybody’s business.”
Head of the Western Cape health department, Dr Keith Cloete said the next generation should not go through the same thing. “We want them to have a different experience with information and treatment, and most importantly to have access to it.”