Ten times the number of adolescents aged between 15-19 are being treated for HIV compared to 2010, according to a study released in the Lancet HIV journal. Nine in 10 people actively receiving treatment are female. One of the reasons for the increase, is that young women are being infected with the HIV virus by older men.Ahead of World Aids Day, which takes place on 1 December, Fourways-based non-profit Witkoppen Clinic, hosted an open day to highlight the role of community in combating the HIV epidemic.
The event, held on 28 November, included a panel discussion, which discussed the role of communities in making a difference, this year’s World Health Organisation World Aids Day theme. The panel was chaired by Dr Garth Japhet, Director of social change non-profit, Heartlines and included Dr Holly France, paediatric HIV specialist, Gloria Mashiane, Community Liaison Coordinator, both from Witkoppen Clinic, Betty Mokthine, HIV Youth Advisory Board,Nonhlanhla Msimango, HIV activist and Angela Makholwa, author of “The Blessed Girl”.
“One of the biggest barriers to HIV testing and treatment is stigma, this includes prejudice, negative attitudes and abuse, directed at people living with HIV and Aids. When infected individuals fear they will be marginalised by their communities, they’re less likely to get tested or seek out treatment,” said Executive Director of Witkoppen Clinic, Dr Jean Bassett.
A selection of stands were set up to encourage members of the community to explore and engage with the services offered by Witkoppen Clinic, including HIV self-testing stations, mental health and social services, a male-friendly clinic and an adolescent unit.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)and the South African Police Service (SAPS) attended the event to show their support for Witkoppen Clinic and the surrounding communities.
“By involving and educating community members, we can help them create a safe space for people who are infected with HIV.An open and accepting community can give individuals the confidence to get tested and help them access the resources needed to initiate treatment,” said Bassett.
Witkoppen Clinic provides comprehensive healthcare to almost 10000 patients every month. The clinic offers a range of healthcare services, including HIV and TB testing and treatment, a mental health clinic, a dentist, as well as the opportunity to consult qualified doctors, nurses, psychologists and pharmacists.
The event, which was sponsored by BofA Securities,previously Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was attended by around 450 community members. Based at 105 William Nicol Drive, Fourways, Johannesburg, the clinic is open from 7.30am to 4pm every weekday. The first visit is free. For more information on the other services Witkoppen Clinic provides, visit their website at www.witkoppen.org.za.