HIV AIDS Operation Medical Hope
A Story of Faith & Hope
The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been catastrophic in all areas of South Africa, especially amongst poorer families. The small town of Hout Bay is no exception but after 12 years of Rotary support to the dedicated staff of the local clinic station led by Sr Liz Huckle and Sr Esther Carolus and whilst the incidence HIV+ still remains high, there has been no recorded deaths from AIDS in our valley for nearly two years, thanks to the distribution of of ARVs and home care support.
But there also can be no relaxation in the fight against this terrible disease.
In 2000, Rotary Club of Hout Bay founded the project that has since built a solid reputation for “hands on” success against this disease. The project runs both at a clinical level and with home care support – supported by worldwide funding. But, more help is always required until we can beat this terrible disease and which is closely allied to the spread of TB. Please read more…
The project is now co-sponsored by Rotary Club of Coolamon in Australia. The project is called
Operation Medical Hope
The current programme incorporates supplying the correct nutritionally-rich food to counter the effects of poor health, hunger and deprivation. These are delivered by specifically planned feeding projects directed at the vulnerable, such programmes having first been vetted by doctors or senior nursing staff and nutritionists.
A programme of specially designed “comfort boxes” to be handed out on a prescriptive basis containing nutritional dry foods and various household and patent medical necessities, is now underway more especially designed to assist vulnerable families on ARV regimes, “dispensed” by nursing staff and clinic doctors on a family needs basis per a prescription authorising such.
Trust in Rotary
Operation Medical Hope (OMH) is a tried and trusted local name in the Hout Bay community as a support mechanism formed by Rotary to back-up to medical professionals engaged in the early detection and early isolation of HIV/AIDS and TB, particularly in cases where poverty neutralises, as a result of poor nutrition, any clinical medications supplied.
Mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS results in many infants in poorer families being more susceptible to serious illnesses and subsequent poor academic performance. This stunting at youth is a major problem in South Africa, particularly in the shanty towns near to cities and towns, where poorer folk live in slum conditions.
With hospitals overcrowded, home care the alternative
South Africa has only an estimated 120,000 hospital beds in the public sector, a fact which has led HIV/AIDS to be designated as a “home care disease” in medical terminology, thereby placing enormous strain and trauma upon poorer households to manage the disease at home. The situation is exacerbated by the inability to afford transport to get to a clinic or hospital for treatment.
There is also great pressure upon local clinic out-patient facilities, such as the two in Hout Bay, to serve
the health needs of poor since staff are called upon to diagnose, treat and dispense to a massively enlarged TB and HIV/AIDS infected communities with limited facilities, low trained staffing levels and with doctor’s visits being out of the question.
Whilst there still remains no answer against the HIV+ virus and new killer strains of TB have now appeared in the worst poverty-affected areas, medicines can hold off the inevitable and extend life. But, such medicines will only work with healthy people. So whilst HIV+ is no longer a death sentence, the collapse of the immune system is. This is where your help is needed.
Awareness and realization of the nutritional needs of those on ARV programs in a community too poor to afford even the basics of a proper diet for themselves, or sadly their children, has turned into a specific, tailored programme of supply to designated families.
Included in this programme are Rotary Family Days during which volunteers gather in community halls for three whole days of close
contact with communities, calling in families to a community hall for baby-care, mother-care, HIV+ testing, nutritional training, TB checks, checking blood pressure levels and eye tests followed by free reader spectacles where suitable.
South Africa has the world’s highest HIV+ numbers and although deaths from AIDS have fallen, there is a growing and ever increasing number of undetected HIV+ cases as the disease spreads. Education programmes amongst youngsters and early adult married couples are highly complex and difficult matters to deal with, involving different cultural approaches to sexual contact. Included with the problems of early detection is the stigma felt by many in poorer communities that is associated with a positive HIV test result. Many don’t wish to venture into a world where the inevitable is thrust upon them.
Whilst the main objective of the professionals is to ensure that the infected stay on their ARV programmes, failure to do so results in a far greater inability of the immune system to fight illness. The objective of Operation Medical Hope, as administered by Rotary Club of Hout Bay, remains therefore to be an important back up to whole recovery process, since nothing works at all without good nutrition, a contributing factor that is mostly out of reach for those living below the breadline, especially a child.
The spectre of associated TB
The ever-increasing implications of the disease upon the social fabric of human settlements poses a national threat to South Africa in the form of food security. These nutritional problems have lead both to the high incidence of TB, now becoming a major problem in poor black townships, as well as the onset of AIDS at an earlier age.
In Hout Bay, as in other towns in South Africa with townships with immigrants and refugees to their areas, there is the spectre of a growing number of orphans – some with the disease carried through from the mother at womb.
Where it Really Hurts
Hout Bay is sadly the home for two “hotspots” in the Cape Peninsula where HIV/AIDS and its shadow disease, tuberculosis, is particularly prevalent. Firstly, there is the sprawling shanty township of Imizamo Yethu with an estimated population of 30,000 served by Hout Bay’s Main Road clinic staffed by only fourteen people under Sister Esther Carolus. This township comprises mainly black folk pouring in from the rural areas of South Africa, complemented by refugees from other parts of Africa such as the DRC, Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The second “hotspot” is the Hangberg area of Hout Bay where a smaller clinic service handles again the consequences of TB and HIV/AIDS but amongst the poorer traditional fishing community who survive from a very much reduced fishing industry.
In total, and mainly in the Imizamo Yethu area, Hout Bay has an unknown number of untested HIV+ persons who are unwittingly perhaps further spreading the disease. Rotary is supporting programmes to “reign” in these folk. On the positive side, some 6,500 are now on ARV therapy, but, unfortunately, the TB component in the poorer section of the community is growing.
Like most successful Rotary projects, Operation Medical Hope works through grass roots organisations and professionals operating in the field, in this case through the Hout Bay Health Forum, a body comprising representatives of the City of Cape Town Health department, its professional clinical nursing staff, and representatives of TB Care, who manage and give training to home care teams into poorer areas, as well as groups such as the Monwabisi Home Care Group who reach HIV/AIDS families
We Need Your Help
Funds can be directed to this rewarding and fully working scheme to Rotary Club of Hout Bay or through Rotary Club of Coolamon, through their websites.
The banking details for Rotary Club of Hout Bay are: First National Bank Branch 204009 (Hout Bay) Current Account 53452281009 SWIFT Code: FIRNZAJJ