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With its savannah, rugged mountains and beautiful coastline, South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is one of the country’s most stunning areas. Yet this beauty masks a disturbing reality: the province has one of the highest rates of HIV in South Africa, with one in four people aged 15-49 infected with the virus.
To reverse this situation, MSF, working alongside local organisations and the community, has instigated a revolution in HIV care. Started in 2011, the ‘Bending the curves’ project has already seen remarkable results.
The idea behind the project is simple: to outpace the HIV epidemic, we need to ‘bend the curves’ of the disease by bringing down the number of new HIV infections while simultaneously increasing the number of people on treatment.
Using new and innovative ideas about tackling HIV at a community level, it is based on four key approaches:
Set up mobile HIV testing units in schools, colleges and at local community events.
Equip community health workers to go door-to-door in remote areas providing counselling and testing.
Scale up condom distribution and encourage male circumcision, which reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 60 percent.
Adapt treatment to people’s lives. Create clubs in the local community where people can collect their medicines and receive counselling and support.
Employ and empower lay counsellors and community health workers as they guide people through the treatment journey.
“People are now not afraid to take their treatment,” says community health worker Babongile Luhlongwane. “We used to bury people every Saturday. Now, people are alive.”
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