Western Cape Health expands HCT services through progressive partnerships

By Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Ministry of Health:

Today, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, officially launched ‘iKapa Cares’ – a partnership with specific private pharmacies who will be expanding their health service offering to include HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) services, in addition to family planning, at ‘iKapa Cares’ outlets.

“This programme is an initiative between the provincial government and private sector to ensure that the population of the Western Cape has increased access to services and awareness in healthcare. The goal is to avail necessary resources to our patient pools to ensure better experiences in receiving vital health care tools,” says Minister Mbombo.

“HCT is an important service as it is a vital part in encouraging people to know their status. The private partners already render family planning and baby immunisation services on behalf of the department. The addition of HCT is integral to ensuring accessibility and education awareness so that people can know their status,” continues Minister Mbombo.

These private pharmacies, will be branded as ‘iKapa Cares’ outlets and will have trained nursing sisters who will provide this confidential service using quality supplies made available by the department.

The test will cost no more than R60. This initiative seeks to reach out to the ordinary person who cannot afford private healthcare, but is not in a position to take a day off work to access primary services.

HCT services launched during World AIDS Day week at eight pharmacies: Chavda Pharmacy, Dis-Chem Claremont, Graceland Pharmacy, Khayelitsha Pharmacy, Pick ‘n Pay Brackenfell, Pick ‘n Pay Ottery, Pick ‘n Pay Plattekloof, and Wynberg Pharmacy.

CareWorks and Community Media Trust conducted various demand generation activities and in the last week over 160 people have tested at these facilities. The iKapa Cares service will be rolled out at additional private partner sites such as, Pick ‘n Pay, Dischem, Alphapharm and other private pharmacies in the City of Cape Town, with the hope of expanding access over the next 12 months.

With support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the US President’s Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CareWorks has provided training and mentorship opportunities for service providers at these private outlets to ensure that private service delivery aligns with national and provincial HIV counselling and testing guidelines. A total of 38 nursing sisters underwent the HCT training provided by CareWorks and TB/HIV Care.

Tercia Ford, a nurse from Dis-Chem Claremont who participated in the training, said: “In the private sector people are all about the instantaneous service. They want to come in immediately, and they want to be out immediately. So how much time you actually need to invest when you are talking to the client would be the biggest thing that I learnt.”

“Of course your main objective is to provide a service and also a quality service. A course like this just improves that, and it’s great to be able to not turn anybody away and to be able to say look there is this service. In the private sector there are limitations as to what we are able to provide and this just enables us to reach more people,” says Ford.

Kathy Searle, a nurse from Dis-Chem Sea Point who underwent the training, said: “I think that the future idea of HIV counselling and testing coming into the pharmacies, the availability for clients and the convenience, is really exciting. I think it’s a perfect opportunity to educate people to make informed decisions and to help them stay healthy. I think the more people who understand and are aware of HIV and AIDS and the difference between the two, how they can stay healthy and still live a normal life even if they are HIV positive – gives people hope.”

“One of the department’s overarching values is responsiveness. This initiative is a response to the needs of South Africans in improving their lives and adding value to their health care needs,” concludes Minister Mbombo.

For more details about the cost and details of your closest iKapa Cares outlet, send a free ‘please call me’ to 079 035 5861.