The cold and windy – and at times rainy – weather did nothing to dampen the spirit of the members of various community organisations who gathered at Ubuntu clinic in Site B to acknowledge the work being done by the Global Fund to combat the spread of HIV and Aids.
At the event on Saturday October 2, a symbolic torch which has travelled across Africa, was unveiled, to recognise the Global Fund’s efforts to combat HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria on the continent.
Professor Harry Hausler, the CEO of TB HIV Care, an organisation that provides TB and HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment services, said support from the Global Fund had allowed them to reach vulnerable, under-serviced groups, and to pilot innovative responses to their needs. These included services for people who inject drugs, inmates in correctional centres, sex workers, adolescent girls and young women and people with TB.
He said the Global Fund had enabled them to provide TB and HIV services to more than 614 000 inmates in correctional centres, including diagnosing TB through the use of computer-assisted digital chest radiography. They were also able to provide HIV counselling and testing, and antiretroviral treatment initiation for more than 7 500 sex workers.
TB HIV Care has also helped 9 000 adolescent girls and young women, offering many of them the option of preventing HIV through pre-exposure prophylaxis, and diagnosed more than 85 000 people with TB and provided treatment support in the form of food parcels and psychosocial support.
“It is through this partnership that the Global Fund has been able to recognise the crucial role that key populations must play in responding to the HIV and TB epidemics. It is with this partnership that the Global Fund must now look ahead to emerging threats, such as Covid-19, and the next 20 years of a global public health response,” he said.
Fanelwa Gwashu who was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, she said she had lost her aunt and sister before she discovered that she was also HIV positive.
She said she then joined an activist organisation called Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to help raise awareness about HIV. When she was diagnosed, she said, HIV was still very much considered as a taboo issue especially in the black families and no one really wanted to talk about it.
She said over the years she had dedicated her life to helping the community and educating them about living a healthy lifestyle. Today, she said she is proud that there is less stigma attached to HIV and a lot has been done to educate the people about it.