2024 News

International Harm Reduction Day

International Harm Reduction Day is marked on the 7th of May each year to advance – and advocate for – a harm reduction approach to drug use. For TB HIV Care CEO, Prof. Harry Hausler, harm reduction recognises that addiction often comes from a place of trauma and suffering. In response, arm reduction offers an alternative, non-punitive, non-judgemental, health and human rights approach to addiction.

In eThekwini, our team marked International Harm Reduction Day with a march. Various stakeholders, including Metro Police, SAPS, Aurum, MAAT Institute, Bellhaven Centre, and TB HIV Care PWID and sex worker staff, participated in the event. The march aimed to enhance awareness amongst the community and government about harm reduction, advocate for the expansion of public health services for individuals who use drugs, and address the stigma and discrimination they confront daily.

After the march, the programme featured presentations from distinguished advocates and medical professionals. A THC OST Doctor elaborated on the methadone programme, whilst a representative from Aurum discussed their tuberculosis services and also conducted TB chest X-rays. Andile Ngcungama, a THC Advocacy Officer, delivered a talk on human rights. The day concluded with powerful testimonies from clients whose lives have been transformed by the methadone programme.

In Nelson Mandela Bay our PWID team observed International Harm Reduction Day with a special event. The formal session refreshed attendees on harm reduction principles and included a ceremony to remember those who have passed away due to drug-related illnesses.

The celebration also included a vibrant session where attendees donned t-shirts in various colours, each representing different harm reduction themes. These colours were symbolic and facilitated engaging group competitions, adding an enjoyable and interactive element to the day’s proceedings.

These events reflect the community’s ongoing commitment to addressing and supporting the needs of people who use drugs, ensuring they receive respect, support, and access to necessary health services.

National Launch of U=U

On Tuesday, 7 May 2024 history was made at the KwaDlamini Sports ground, Ntabamhlope, Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality in uThukela District as South Africa proudly hosted the national launch of the groundbreaking U=U campaign. While this campaign had previously been launched with the support of TB HIV Care in the Eastern Cape (2022) and the Western Cape (2023), the national launch brought together leaders, advocates and communities in a spectacular showcase of unity and determination to end HIV transmission.

Michelle Carey (Demand Creation Manager)  attended the event with TB HIV Care CEO Prof Harry Hausler, and many of our PPPrev DREAMS team members from KwaZulu-Natal. According to Prof Hausler, “This is an important milestone in our efforts to end HIV in South Africa. Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) means that people living with HIV (PLHIV) who take daily antiretroviral treatment (ART) can decrease the amount of HIV in their blood to the point that it is not detectable and at that point, will not transmit HIV onto their sexual partners. This empowers PLHIV to start and stay on ART both to protect their own health and the health of their sexual partners. We must implement U=U treatment literacy across all of our programmes, starting from the time of HIV testing, at the initiation of ART and throughout the HIV treatment journey. We should motivate PLHIV to come for their first viral load 3 months after initiating treatment and to celebrate when they have achieved an undetectable viral load.”

The event was graced by esteemed speakers who echoed the resounding message of hope and empowerment. Welcoming the campaign to KwaZulu-Natal, MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane not only endorsed U=U as a game-changer but also highlighted its pivotal role in the progress of the fight against HIV. Ms. Saira Johnson-Qureshi, PEPFAR Country Coordinator, reaffirmed PEPFAR’s commitment to eradicating HIV by 2030, inspiring attendees with her dedication.

A particularly poignant moment came with the address by SANAC CEO Thembisile Xulu, who not only championed the U=U campaign but also emphasised the importance of prevention methods and HIV testing. Xulu’s words served as a reminder that knowledge is power and that understanding one’s HIV status is crucial in safeguarding both individual health and community well-being.

Dr. Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health, delivered a keynote address that underscored the significance of the U=U campaign in transforming the landscape of the HIV response across the nation. His words resonated deeply, setting the tone for a future of success and commitment.

Amidst the speeches and presentations, the atmosphere was electrified with the spirit of unity and determination. Attendees, numbering in the hundreds, engaged in traditional singing, dancing, and ululating, infusing the event with energy and optimism. It was a testament to the resilience and strength of South African people.

While every aspect of the launch was remarkable, special recognition must be given to the uThukela TB HIV Care team, led by Mpume Manyoni. Their dedication, professionalism, and warmth were evident throughout the day.

As the event drew to a close, the echoes of optimism and determination lingered in the air. As we said our goodbyes, the uThukela TB HIV Care team’s pledge to uphold the highest standards of service delivery serves as a reminder that together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions.

eThekwini Sex Work Site Hosts CDC Delegation

On 11 April, a CDC Atlanta and Botswana delegation visited TB HIV Care’s Sex Worker Programme in eThekwini to benchmark best practices around programme implementation.

TB HIV Care was represented by Chief Programme Officer, Dr Laurene Booyens; Key Populations Director, Mfezi Mcingana; Key Populations Quality Improvement Coordinator, Lorraine Moses; National Research Project Coordinator Chitra Singh; SW National Peer Coordinator, Sisanda Nqezo; Key Populations Study Coordinator, Thabile Mthethwa; SW Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Hlengiwe Mhlophe; and SW eThekwini Site Manager, Vuyiswa Nyawose.

Helen Savva, CDC Key Populations Lead, highlighted that the visit was aimed at understanding and benchmarking services offered to sex workers by TB HIV Care and to share these lessons with Botswana colleagues.

eThekwini Site Manager Vuyiswa Nyawose added, “This was a learning visit – a knowledge-sharing platform, where practical information on activities that the programme is implementing, to assist them with improving health outcomes in KP- female sex workers in Botswana.”

The delegation had an opportunity to engage with various teams in the SW Programme, where they were able to present some of the services they offer to sex workers and some of their successes.

“TB HIV care cultivates many values, with empowerment being one. This helps to promote ownership and accountability. Team members are empowered to take ownership of their work and think creatively to overcome challenges. We encourage them to be engaged in their work, think outside the box, and produce new ideas and solutions, which can possibly lead to process improvements within the site and programme at large,” added Nyawose.

The Botswana delegation hailed the eThekwini sex work site for their innovative implementation of the programme, which Nyawose commented, “I am very excited. I believe that empowerment is the cornerstone of innovation. It wasn’t a miracle, but it has been a process of ensuring that I communicate the vision and values of the organisation to the team and align it with the programme goals.  Literally, every day I wear a different hat which allows me to capacitate the team and provide technical guidance at the site level to ensure that we enhance our effectiveness and efficiency as a programme in the eThekwini district.”

The delegation joined the outreach team, where they had an opportunity to visit one sex worker location and engage with sex workers, seeing first-hand the work done by dedicated TB HIV Care outreach teams.

Nyawose added such visits “create an environment for open interaction between the donor and programme implementers so that the donor understands the quality and quantity of interventions that are implemented within the programme as well as the situation (challenges) we face within the programme.”

I would like to give a special thanks to the eThekwini FSW team and the presenters for the day. And a big thank you to Helen & Laurene for their continuous support for the programme”, added Nyawose.