A life-long investment in the health of both HIV positive and negative patients is the key to managing the disease and living a full life irrespective of one's status. This is the message confirmed by doctors and health caregivers who met with international hematology and hemotherapy specialist, Dr Albertina Vieira, who was in South Africa for World Aids Day 2012.
Marking 30 years since the discovery of HIV/Aids by virologist Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute, Dr Albertina's positive message is that with therapeutic advances, early detection, adherence to treatment and a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle, the control of this disease is within our reach. She said: "As we support those with the infection and remember those who have died, we need to increase education projects emphasising that prevention is the greatest weapon against HIV/Aids."
Visiting primary health care facilities and independent medical services providers, Dr Albertina was encouraged by the holistic programmes which include comprehensive patient counselling pre-testing and regular follow up monitoring once a positive status has been confirmed to ensure that patients understand that the treatment regime is a life-long commitment. Only once this has been accepted and agreed, do patients begin treatment.
Hosted by Women in Action (WiA) a group of pastors' wives committed to volunteer work, Dr Albertina visited the Themba Lethu Clinic, Right to Care's flagship site for HIV management and the largest antiretroviral treatment site in the country, where doctors and trained counsellors see 400-800 people every day, 25 -50 of whom are new patients.
Doctor Kay Mahomed, Medical Officer, stressed the importance of the counselling process, saying that new patients have five counselling sessions before they see a doctor. Two of these are wellness sessions, two provide treatment information and the last one is a readiness class where patients commit to the programme for life. Once medication has been prescribed and collected from the on-site pharmacy, the patient returns to the doctor to check their understanding and to ask any questions they may have. One-on-one counselling is offered to protect patient confidentiality and group sessions enable patients to receive support from others making similar lifestyle changes.
Dr Albertina commented on the extremely high standards maintained in the clinic, and congratulated teams on the respect and care they show for patients. She said: "Although the stigma of a positive diagnosis persists, the compassion and support patients receive and the access to treatment is turning the tide of tragedy. Recent studies confirm that if an infected partner receives treatment, the transmission to the negative partner is reduced. By making healthy lifestyle choices and the responsible use of condoms, the risk of infecting a loved one can be managed."
While she was in Johannesburg, Dr Albertina met Professor Desmond Pantanowitz, professor of surgery at Wits Medical School, and other doctors in private practice to discuss the prevalence and management of HIV/Aids in South Africa. On Saturday 1 December, World Aids Day, she attended the Gauteng Department of Health's event at the Sethokga Hostel in Tembisa, where she met key role players who are actively involved in HIV/Aids care at grass roots level.
Dr Albertina will return to South Africa in February 2013 to contribute to Women in Action's World Cancer Day event.
For further information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng at the church's public relations department on 011 224 3400 or email . <>
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) is a contemporary, evangelical, Bible-based church, actively involved in numerous national outreach projects caring for people's spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
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