/ 9 October 2007

E Cape health dept denies Aids treatment bungle

An HIV/Aids treatment programme is on track in Lusikisiki, contrary to media reports that it was bungled, the Eastern Cape health department said on Tuesday.

Departmental spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the department took over the programme initiated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the NGO Médecins sans Frontiêres (MSF) in October last year.

The Daily Dispatch reported on Tuesday that a year after the handover, the programme was in ”ruins”.

An HIV-positive woman told the paper that when she was diagnosed with the disease she never thought ”she would be stranded and left to die”.

A Gateway Clinic nurse told the paper that the MSF adherence counsellors made follow-ups on everyone who tested positive. Since the government has taken over, the report said, communities are suffering as they see ”very little” of adherence councillors.

Kupelo, in a statement, said adherence councillors who worked with MSF have formed an independent, community-based organisation and all counsellors are attached to clinics around Lusikisiki.

Since the NGO’s handing-over of the programme, the department has employed additional staff including four doctors, two nurses, two pharmacy assistants and a data capturer, as a mobile team for the area.

”Rotational clinic visits by doctors is also an order of the day,” he said. ”Five vehicles are being utilised for clinic visits, mobile team outreach and to trace defaulters. We also wish to state that the HIV and Aids programme is sustained very well in Lusikisiki.”

He said his department had instituted an investigation to locate the patient referred to in the Daily Dispatch article but was unsuccessful. — Sapa