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Condom Week: What a week it was!

Last week was Condom Week. It is a critical week on the health calendar as it is used to educate the public on STIs and how to prevent them through condom use. Our vision is to be the leader in empowering communities to be healthy and free of TB and HIV. To achieve our vision, we need to continually search for innovative ways to reach as many South Africans as possible.

Facebook Live

TB HIV Care went live on Facebook for the first time in June 2019, and we received 84 views. Last week, the Communications Unit, along with IT, joined Team Southern (Cape Metro) on outreach in Vrygrond. Our first session of the day received 837 views.

Streaming live is a useful communication tool as it is a personal and authentic way to communicate with both internal staff and the public at the same time.

We arrived in Vrygrond at 11:45 on a sweltering hot day. I was surprised how quickly the outreach team was able to set up everything and get going.

Everyone knew what their roles were and executed them brilliantly. The event consisted of three sessions.

In the first session, Nondumiso Mtshiselwa (also known as Ndumi), who is the Priority Population Prevention Coordinator, introduced TB HIV Care by informing everyone about who we are and what we do. Ndumi went on to engage with the audience around the use of condoms, the importance of knowing one’s status and invited a volunteer to participate in a condom demonstration.

In the second session, Ndumi interviewed a young lady that was waiting in line to get tested, and asked her why she wanted to be tested. A live HIV testing session followed the interview. The purpose of this session was to provide the public with an understanding of the testing procedure and what to expect when one goes for an HIV test.

The last session included a brief interview with the same young lady after her test, discussing her thoughts and feelings around the testing process. Ndumi then informed everyone of their upcoming outreaches and plans for the rest of the month. Right at the end of the shoot, we all gathered to wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day.

Ndumi was outstanding, a true professional. She knew exactly how to engage the audience and along with her team were able to create a lively atmosphere. Anelisiwe Piliso (Intern) filmed the live sessions, helped with the branding and stepped in wherever she was needed. Darian Faro (Junior IT Technician) provided much-needed advice in the build-up to the event and handled the setup of the sound system and connectivity. Ayanda, the new Communications Administrator, assisted with the branding and obtaining consent from those in attendance. Thank you, everyone!

We can do more

We are often looking to target a specific audience, and with boosted posts, we can do just that. Exciting times ahead, the possibilities are endless. Watch this space!

If you missed the Facebook Live, log on, like our page, and check out all the videos from the day.

Other Condom Week activations

Phatiswa De Wet from the Central Library in Cape Town invited TB HIV Care to be part of their ‘Month of Love’ activities by conducting a talk on condoms and using them correctly to combat the spread of HIV and STIs.

Phatiswa extended an invitation to local high schools and CPUT students to attend the session. Des Schouw (Training Coordinator) facilitated an interactive group activity where both male and female participants attempted a condom demonstration, with the audience assisting when they went wrong. The students asked many questions, and Des challenged the group by throwing back questions like;

    • How safe is the condom?
    • Do you know why female condoms are not well received?
    • Have you seen a female condom before?The participants were eager and stayed engaged throughout the session. They requested that this be an ongoing event as many students come to the library on a Friday, and they would love to learn more. A request to return is a good indication that all went well.

Well done team!

Support Groups for Women Who Use Drugs is Making a Difference

More than a year ago, to identify how many women were not accessing services and the reasons why, SANPUD conducted an informal needs assessment through focus groups with women you use drugs. The aim was to identify what services they need and whether women-focused groups would be beneficial. TB HIV Care adopted the findings from the groups, which recommended the approach, and formed women-specific groups in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

The response to the formation of these groups for women who use drugs has been overwhelming. In Cape Town, the groups started in February 2019 and take place every Friday at the Drop-in Centre. The group has grown tremendously in size. It began with a handful of women and has grown between 15-20 members each week.

The support that women who use drugs provide for each other within these groups has been incredible to see. Group material is relevant to their context, with a variety of topics such as goal setting, building self-esteem, gender-based violence, abusive relationships, childcare and appreciation of self, substance use and therapeutic work. The team plan on introducing topics around skills development, to aid integration into the workforce.

These groups have been influential among women who use drugs as they provide them with a support network where they can process experiences with women who have had shared experiences.

Family reunification has been a primary motivating factor in their desire to make changes related to substance use.

One participant shared the impact that the group has made on her life. “Parts of my life have dramatically improved. This group is 100% a safe space for me to express issues I have been holding onto for many years. “

Step Up Project opens new centre for people who use drugs in Cape Town city centre

The Western Cape MEC for Health, Prof Nomafrench Mbombo, opened a drop-in centre for people who inject drugs in central Cape Town on Wednesday, the 4th December 2019. The centre, run by NGO TB HIV Care’s Step Up Project, is part of a recent approach to people who use drugs that seeks to reduce the harms associated with disordered substance use instead of demanding abstinence. The Step Up Project has already provided support to over 900 people in the greater Cape Metro.

People who inject drugs are at particular risk for blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, as well as facing the dangers that come with social marginalisation as a result of the criminalisation of drug use. The Step Up Project aims to reduce these risks by providing a package of wellness services which includes sterile injecting equipment, opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing and screening, and psychosocial services.

The drop-in centre itself is not new. A similar space has been operating in Woodstock for the past two years. However the new location in central Cape Town brings the services closer to the people accessing them, many of whom are living on the streets of Cape Town’s inner city.

The teams have had more than 10 000 contacts with service beneficiaries, which range from providing health education to testing people for HIV and starting them on antiretroviral treatment. Nearly 9000 ‘harm reduction packs’, which contain sterile injecting equipment, have been distributed.

‘That may seem like a lot of needles in the environment, but we need to think of each of them as a potential infection averted.’ Said Prof Harry Hausler, CEO of TB HIV Care, at the launch ‘Our clients are also provided with portable ‘sharps’ containers to store their used needles safely until they can return them to us and we undertake regular outreaches to pick up used needles that have been discarded inappropriately.”

Speaking about the importance of reaching vulnerable populations, which will enable South Africa to reach goal three of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022 ‘leave no one behind’ as well as echoing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda which “endeavour(s) to reach the furthest behind first.”, MEC Mbombo mentioned the strides the Western Cape has made in reaching marginalised groups such as people who inject drugs, as well as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgendered people and inmates in correctional centres

Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International NGO dedicated to reducing the negative impacts of drug use and drug policy, commented on how encouraged the international community is by developments in subSaharan Africa, “To see government represented in the room today, supporting this initiative, is inspiring.”