HIV and Aids: How to get treatment and support in South Africa

South Africa has the largest antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme in the world, which gives people living with the virus the chance to live full and healthy lives. Here’s more on where to get treatment.

hiv aids treatment south africa
Babies whose mothers are HIV positive are tested at six weeks using the HIV PCR method, according to Unicef South Africa. (Image: Unicef South Africa, Flickr)

Brand South Africa reporter
There are 3.4-million HIV positive people on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in South Africa today, according to the government.

With the 2016 International Aids Conference taking place from 18 to 22 July in Durban, we bring you a list of free health and social support services for South Africans affected by HIV and Aids. These can help HIV-positive people and their families deal with their situation a lot better.

State hospitals and clinics

Ask staff at your local clinic or hospital about the following services if you are HIV-positive or if you know someone living with HIV/Aids.

Testing and counselling
The first step is to get tested for HIV. Knowing your status will help you get the treatment you need. Pregnant women should get tested every three months.

The HIV test is provided for free at government clinics.

You can also get tested at a local health department office, at your local doctor, at family planning clinics and at sites specially set up for HIV testing. The results of your HIV test will be kept secret.

Aids Foundation South Africa advises that you wait for three months after possible infection before you get an HIV test.

HIV and pregnancy
If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, your doctor or staff at your local clinic can give you advice on how to make sure the virus is not passed on to your baby.

Treatment and medication
If you are HIV-positive but can’t afford to pay for ARV medicines, you can go to state hospitals and clinics for help. All medicines – the antiretroviral pills and vitamins – are available at government hospitals and clinics.

People who are very sick can be treated there, or will be referred to another hospital for treatment.

Support groups
If you need advice and support for living with HIV, counsellors and nurses at your clinic can refer you to a support group.

Home-based care and help for families
Ask at your clinic about how people with HIV and Aids can get treatment for the disease at home. This is known as home-based care.

The families of HIV-positive people can be trained on how to care for their loved one if he or she becomes very sick. Clinic staff can also tell families where to go to get training on how to give proper home-based care to people with Aids.

Family members over the age of 12 can be trained in basic hygiene, basic nutrition, bed baths and dealing with blood, simple infections and body fluids. For example, covering your hands with a plastic bag when dealing with blood can stop you getting infected.

Poverty alleviation

The department of social development is the go-to place to find out about food parcels. A social worker will look into your situation and give you advice on what to do.

The government also gives out different grants through the South Africa Social Security Agency. You need different documents for different social grants. A social worker will help you with this. On your first visit you must take your identity document, or ID, with you.

The documents you might need to apply for a grant are:

  • ID
  • Medical certificate
  • Proof of income and assets. This proof can be a wage slip, shop receipts, your UIF card, bank account statements, or your pension book. If you have no documents to prove your income, you must to go to a police station to write an affidavit explaining why you don’t have the documents. The police will give you advice on how to do this.
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate of parents
  • Birth certificates of children you are looking after
  • Affidavit from birth mother if the child’s real parents are still alive. This must explain why you are looking after another person’s child. It must also say that the parents agree to you looking after the child.
  • Letter from your employer stating your salary

Other support

Here are some of the other places where you can find support:

  • Caprisa – The Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) provides comprehensive programmes of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support to those affected. One of their projects educates teenagers on protection against HIV/Aids. They also hold support groups for HIV- positive people.

Watch Caprisa beneficiaries in KwaZulu-Natal talk about how the organisation helps them:

  • Nacosa is a network of over 1 500 civil society organisations and individuals working together against HIV/Aids and TB in southern Africa. To find the contact details and address of an organisation working in your area, you can visit their website.
  • Health4Men is an awareness project targeted at gay and bisexual men. The Health4Men initiative and the sexual health campaign We the Brave were founded by the Anova Health Institute in partnership with the Department of Health. Visit their websites to get information on HIV/Aids, and to find clinics specifically for gay or bisexual people.

Volunteer to help

If you want to be a volunteer, you can contact the Department of Health or first aid training organisations. They can help with formal training like basic first aid care.

Volunteers can also work hand-in-hand with other institutions like religious groups, clinics and the Department of Social Development.

Dealing with death

People who are extremely sick and likely to die should prepare for their death. Things to do include naming guardians for their children, writing out a will and testament, sorting out any bank accounts and insurance, and creating a memory box for their children and other loved ones.

People who can’t afford a funeral for a family member should ask their municipalities and religious organisations for help. They should work together to give the deceased a pauper’s burial. This is a free funeral paid by the municipality.

Sources: South African Government News Agency, Education and Training Unit and Aids Foundation South Africa.

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