An Insider’s Look: HIV/AIDS Clinics in South AfricaAccording to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), roughly 7.8 million adults and children are currently HIV positive in South Africa. HIV is a life-threatening immunodeficiency virus transmitted through bodily fluids. Upon infection, the virus causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) which cannot be reversed or cured. As a result, people living with HIV/AIDS have weak immune systems and cannot fight off common diseases.

Considering the seriousness of HIV/AIDS, affected communities in South Africa require immediate attention and assistance. Below are 3 facts about a non-governmental organization called Child Family Health International (CFHI) that sends healthcare students to work in HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa. Afterward, a CFHI healthcare student recalls his experience working at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Durban, South Africa.

3 Facts about Child Family Health International (CFHI)

Firstly, CFHI offers health education programs around the world. Every year, the organization sends undergraduate students and faculty members abroad to experience healthcare systems in different countries. To date, the organization offers programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Ghana, India, the Philippines, Uganda and South Africa. For the South Africa program, participants have an opportunity to work in a tertiary public hospital, a Parochial Hospital, a hospice center or an HIV/AIDS clinic.

Secondly, CFHI partners with HIV/AIDS clinics in South Africa. To help mitigate the rising number of HIV-positive cases in Durban, South Africa, CFHI sends students and staff to a local HIV/AIDS clinic called the “Blue Roof Clinic.” Originally, the Blue Roof building housed a local nightclub renowned for drug and alcohol abuse. However, in 2006 the non-profit organization Keep a Child Alive (KCA)‘s cofounder, professional singer Alicia Keys, helped to buy the building. After years of renovations, it became a local HIV/AIDS clinic dedicated to providing free medication and treatment to South Africans testing positive for HIV.

Thirdly, CFHI helps to combat poverty in South Africa. By sending students to the Blue Roof Clinic, the organization assists thousands of HIV-positive patients every month. This type of assistance includes giving patients anti-retroviral medicine, psychological support, legal advice, nutrition guides and HIV prevention tips. Best of all, HIV/AIDS treatments are free of charge and offered to everyone in need. The only cost to patients includes transportation to and from the clinic. Overall, CFHI continues enrolling thousands of students from over 35 different countries to help people around the world.

3 Interview Questions with a CFHI alumnus

To learn more about CFHI, The Borgen Project interviewed Christian Warner, a CFHI healthcare alumnus.

  1. Tell me about yourself and why you participated in the South Africa CFHI program. “My name is Christian Warner and I studied public health at Oregon State University (OSU). I had an internship in South Africa through CFHI my senior year of school. I chose CFHI’s program in South Africa because students have an opportunity to work in local HIV clinics and help local populations living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Overall, I wanted to gain healthcare experience working in a foreign environment.”
  2. What does an average day working in HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa look like? “I spent time working at an HIV/AIDS clinic called Blue Roof Clinic. Each morning, I arrived at the clinic to make sure we had adequate supplies. Typical supplies included sanitation gloves, cleaning supplies and antiretroviral treatments for patients. A couple hours later, patients would start showing up. During the day, I shadowed retired nurse practitioners working in the clinic. The nurses would ask patients a variety of medical history questions before administering treatment. They also asked whether patients had trouble getting to the clinic transportation-wise. Our mission is to ensure everyone can access the clinic and its resources.”
  3. How do HIV/AIDS Clinics in South Africa ensure treatment is available to all, regardless of socioeconomic status? “The Blue Roof Clinic offers free walk-in appointments and HIV treatments for everyone in need. This allows people to seek medical assistance without visiting the hospital or acquiring insurance. The clinic also makes people feel comfortable because their medical and visitation history is 100% confidential.”

Ending the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

The U.N. pledged to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030. To accomplish this goal, 90% of people living with HIV must know that they carry the disease and have access to treatment. Therefore, governments and non-governmental organizations worldwide are donating billions of dollars to provide affected communities with antiretroviral medicines and other treatments. However, governments must also monitor antiretroviral medicine supply chains and stockpiles to ensure economic ramifications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic do not disrupt people’s access to treatment.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr