Fourways based non-profit Witkoppen Clinic has teamed up with the Department of Health and the Anova Health Institute to encourage antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, with their 2020 ‘Welcome Back’ campaign. For people living with HIV, ART is the key to staying healthy, but many patients on treatment stop taking their medication – especially when it becomes difficult to access.
“Taking your ARV treatment, which is only one pill a day, keeps you healthy and significantly reduces your risk of developing HIV-related complications,” says Director at Fourways-based Witkoppen Clinic, Jean Bassett. “Sticking to your ARV treatment also lowers your chances of passing HIV on to others.”
To encourage individuals to get back onto ARV therapy, the ‘Welcome Back’ campaign aims to educate South Africans about their options when it comes to ART. For example, chronic medication can be collected from private pharmacies and other places outside of the clinic. “If you are unable to go yourself, you can send someone to collect your medication at the clinic or get your treatment delivered at home,” says Bassett.
Moving, relocation and housing instability are some of the main reasons that patients stop ART. Others reported stopping for reasons related to the treatment itself – they felt tired of treatment, experienced ART side effects, started to feel better or didn’t believe ART would work. In some communities, a fear of disclosing their HIV status and experiencing stigma also acted as barriers to treatment.
To benefit from ART, patients must take at least 95% of their treatment as prescribed. In South Africa, where more than four million people are on ART, this level of adherence is seldom achieved because patients are not always able to access treatment on a long-term basis.
“We know that life happens and there are a number of reasons why you would stop your ARVs, but getting back onto treatment is simple and beneficial. Those who do return to pick up treatment again shouldn’t be judged or criticised for stopping. They deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and integrity. They deserve a warm welcome back,” says Bassett.
Witkoppen Clinic provides comprehensive healthcare to almost 10 000 patients every month. The Clinic offers a range of healthcare services, including HIV and TB testing, a mental health clinic, dentist and mobile health clinics. Mobile clinics service patients living in Diepsloot, Msawawa, and surrounding areas, providing HIV testing to about 450 patients per day.
Based at 105 William Nicol Drive, Fourways, Johannesburg, Witkoppen Clinic is open from 7.30am to 4pm every weekday. A patient’s first visit is free. For more information on the other services Witkoppen Clinic provides, visit their website at www.witkoppen.org.