STARTING out in 1987, The Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a well-known non-profit organisation, operating in 39 countries and caring for over 720000 patients.
This year, AHF celebrates a decade of service to the Eastern Cape. AHF are present in 55 clinics around the province, offering and facilitating various HIV prevention services, testing and healthcare for HIV patients.
“Cutting edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay- that is our mission, our aim is to reach marginalised and vulnerable communities,” said country programme director at AHF Southern Africa, Hilary Thulare.
AHF are dedicated to improving the quality and access to healthcare and reaching patients who previously had no access to such healthcare.
The Eastern Cape, South Africa’s poorest province, is also one of the areas where AHF’s support is most needed as the majority of AHF supported clinics are running in and around rural areas in the Eastern Cape.
“Despite having a relatively low HIV prevalence rate of between 3 and 6%, there are various areas in the Eastern Cape where the prevalence rate is up to 14% or higher,” said AHF’s regional policy and advocacy manager, Larissa Klazinga.
“This disparity is visible when comparing prevalence rates in urban metropolitan areas and more rural marginalised areas who have little to no access to HIV healthcare or prevention services.”
In 2007 the first Eastern Cape AHF supported clinic was opened in Middledrift. Since then the AHF’s support has spread throughout the province, making access to healthcare to many much easier. “There has been a steady increase in the number of patients receiving access to testing, treatment, improved quality healthcare and counselling – not just in Middledrift but in small towns across the province,” said Klazinga.
A unique feature of AHF’s presence in the Eastern Cape is their door-to-door testing services. “We’ve managed to reach far more people doing door-to-door testing and ensure that they have access to the healthcare they need,” said Thulare.
AHF’s door-to-door approach has increased the number of patients being treated, giving people a more intimate and comfortable experience when receiving treatment and counselling for HIV.
The organisation has also offers nurse mentoring programme where nurses receive training and support in order to offer the various HIV prevention, testing and counselling services to patients.
“We, as AHF, spend a lot of time profiling areas and understanding the culture and people we will be working with. This gives us extensive knowledge and allows us to educate various communities on HIV/AIDS while dealing with them in a respectful and sensitive manner,” Thulare explained.
In recognition of AHF’s 10 years of service in the Eastern Cape, they will be hosting a series of events around the province, starting with the Girls ACT launch at Willowvale on June 12.
“Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most at-risk age group for contracting HIV in the country. Youth programmes and ongoing education are vitally important to raise awareness. The challenge is to encourage sexual-behaviour change amongst young men and women,” said Klazinga.