29 January 2013

South Africa: HIV Patients Stranded as Pepfar Funds Dry Up

Tshwane — The news that the United States President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) was discontinuing its financial support to non-governmental organisations in South Africa was received with shock by the thousands of patients at Hope for Life, an NGO in Winterveld in the northern region of the City of Tshwane that is now facing closure.

Hope for Life provides various HIV-related services, including antiretroviral treatment and home-based care to the Winterveld community.

“The Gauteng Department of Health at the northern sub-district office in Mabopane is aware of the closure of the site, but they have shown no sign of support and we were told to transfer the patients to the local clinics without even mentioning any solutions that might prevent a closure,” said the site manager at Hope for Life, Palesa Masemola.

According to her the NGO lobbied for support from the local council, but they have shown a lack of interest, sending them from pillar-to-post. “We have also appealed to the community to engage the local leadership to get answers,” said Masemola.

Local clinic managers have also raised their concern about an influx of patients to their already-overburdened clinics should Hope for Life close down. Conditions at the local clinics are poor and there have been complaints that staff are inadequately trained and completely overburdened by the amount of work.

A social worker from Hope for Life, Selina Bokaba said that they have been kept in the dark about what is going to happen, and whether the Department of Health will continue using the well-equipped site and trained staff in future.

One of the patients, Dolly Mabasa said: "This is very shocking because we came here to get away from the bad treatment we received at the clinics, and now we are told to go back. This is really traumatising. I beg the Department of Health to come and compare services from the public health facilities and non-governmental organisations.”

The local Department of Health did not want to comment on the issue.

- OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Tshwane health district in Gauteng.

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