This project was started in 2007 when the Society for Family Health awarded Mosamaria its first social franchise for the New Start brand name, which ensures the very best of HIV counselling and testing services.
Currently we counsel and test an average of more than 4,000 people per month at our non-medical fixed site and through community outreaches, and home based counselling and testing. We take our mobile service to universities, colleges, prisons, community open spaces, shopping centres, taxi ranks and any other place where members of communities feel safe to test.
We do TB screening and take sputum samples for TB. We refer HIV+ clients for Anti Retro Viral Therapy. We follow up on referrals and phone clients, with their permission, to give them ongoing support with their HIV status.
Our New Start HCT mobile outreach and home-based testing service is counselling and testing over 4,000 people per month. We find that counselling and testing people for HIV in their homes, assists them to disclose their status to one another as a family, eradicating the feared stigma. Here we reach men and children too who do not regularly attend clinics.
In February and March we have HIV counselling and testing campaigns at the local universities and further education colleges, with great success. It is wonderful to see so many intelligent young people wanting to know their HIV status, in spite of the thought of being HIV+ being daunting. It is a question of empowerment and taking ownership and responsibility for one’s own body. With the students who test, we find an extremely low HIV prevalence rate of less than 3%, which is really great news.
The Free State Department of Health is partially funding this programme, but if we were to access additional funding we could reach far more people and spend more time working with the key populations in the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, intersex, and men-who-have-sex-with men(MSM) groups.
We already reach many sex workers for regular counselling and testing, and we have enabled them to start saving and lending groups (stokvel).
We have now expanded our mobile HCT to the Lejweleputswa District with funding from the Centres for Disease Control in the USA through the Society of Family Health who we worked with for many years. In February 2017 we recruited a whole team of a site manager, referrals coordinator, outreach coordinator, senior counsellor, 10 counsellor/testers, 2 community mobilisers and an office manager. They were trained in February and started testing from the beginning of March in the informal settlements in Welkom, the mines, the communities of Bothaville and Wesselsbron, and will soon be moving out onto the farms in this district. We have to aim our reach at communities who have never had HIV testing and those at very high risk, so that 17% of the people who we test are HIV+. All these people living with HIV need to be referred to clinics to start Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART)as soon as possible. We follow up with phone calls and sms to encourage the clients to access these services according to the Department of Health’s Test and Treat policy. Anyone who is HIV+ regardless of their CD4 count is immediately initiated on to ART for the best possible prognosis, in line with the World Health Organisation.