Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has provided 394 pap smears, 82 cervical cancer screening tests, three cryotherapy treatments and 447 breast ultrasounds to women who can’t afford healthcare.
The clinic forms part of the Hlokomela Project, an award-winning HIV educational and treatment programme targeting workers, including migrants, in the agriculture, tourism, and nature conservation sectors in Hoedspruit in Limpopo and Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga. The Hlokomela Project has been running for 13 years across 72 sites and treats about 30 000 people, but realised there was a need for a clinic for women and their unique needs.
“Women in this community and the surrounding areas and villages have little to no access to breast and cervical cancer screening,” says Hlokomela Project director Christine du Preez. “We wanted to create a space where we could provide free or affordable professional care and ensure that the cancer was treated or caught early. The clinic targets sex workers, female farmworkers and general community members who can’t afford these services at a private facility.”
The primary goal of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic is to bring women’s health to a large and underserved rural population. Currently, the clinic provides testing for breast and cervical cancer alongside on-going education and awareness campaigns.
“We are working hard to build awareness in these communities as so many women and girls don’t know about the risks of cancer or how to screen themselves,” says Du Preez. “We work with schools, Rotaries and host wellness days to really get the community involved and to show young girls and women how to examine their breasts.”
For women who have had their cancer detected by the clinic, there are plans in place to assist them with treatment and support. Discussions are being held with Discovery Health to find accommodation and transport for patients because they have to travel to Johannesburg for care. In addition, the teams work with hospitals and doctors to provide chemotherapy and treatment to those who are diagnosed with cancer.
“We have had some amazing success stories with women being treated in time and returning home to live healthier and longer lives with their families,” says Du Preez. “We are also promoting the facility to affluent members of the community and these funds are helping us to subsidise the healthcare we provide our farmworkers. Women are already benefitting from this project and so are their families. It is making a difference every day.”