Ufafa Valley in KwaZulu-Natal is a beautiful area. Rolling green hills with round huts perched on the slopes, surrounded by seemingly idyllic pastoral life. Woza Moya is a community-based NGO in this valley with a programme that incorporates home based care, child and youth care, early childhood development, food security, paralegal advice and water, sanitation and hygiene services. They care for around 1,000 HIV positive patients – a third of whom are also infected with TB.
One of the main roles of the home based carers is to support people who are HIV positive or who have active TB to takes their medication. Evidence shows that not only does proper adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ARV) help HIV positive people live longer and better, it also reduces their viral load and thus helps prevent transmission of the virus.
Jabu Jwasa loves working as a carer: "It’s a calling. I love to help people who need me". She is from the area and recognises the challenges that patients face. "Above all," she says, the main problem is poverty. “And the things that come with poverty." Jabu visits about 30 HIV positive and TB clients every month.
She is inspired by her colleagues at Woza Moya and by clients that she sees making progress every day. Out of her 30 regular, only one has defaulted. "I sat down with him and discussed it. Now he's back on treatment".
Today, the response to HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically. "People are happy to test now," Jabu explains. "Before, it was so difficult." The difference in attitude, she believes, comes down to education – "people get better with education". Jabu also recognises how important it is to develop relationships with clients.
"We must be connected with the people. At work, it's like I'm family or something!"
Bazini Sinde Mjolo, 40, first tested in 2005, while pregnant. Her results were positive, and the information scared her. "I felt so dizzy. My response was very negative. That has changed though". Now, "it seems like I was born with it. I accept it fully". She thanks Woza Moya and care workers like Jabu. "Since I engaged with Woza Moya and they counselled and advised me, things changed".
Today, she and her little girl are healthy and Bazini has never defaulted. Her daughter is negative. Bazini attends Woza Moya support groups, her daughter benefits from their education programmes, and she is a crafter at the facility, from which she earns an income. Bazini hopes that she can be an example to other people.
"It's not the end of your life. You can do anything. Anything you want to be, you can."
At the heart of Woza Moya is Project Manager, Ngetembi 'Jane' Nxasani. She began working within the HIV/AIDS response as a volunteer with the Department of Health. "People in the area were dying. There was no education and no knowledge about HIV". When Woza Moya started 15 years ago, their small team would wear red sponsored T-shirts as they worked in the small, rural towns. "There was such stigma then," June shakes her head. "People hated us. They hated those T-shirts. But we knew we could fix it. With education."
Jane is a role model. "'We' is more effective than 'me'. It's easy for people to come to me, because I'm open about my status. Even colleagues come to me. Everyone comes to me!" she laughs. Jane's hopes for the future are simple.
"Education and protection. That's what it comes down to."
Evidence shows that good care and support helps HIV positive people to live longer and healthier lives. It also reduces viral load and so plays a vital role in prevention. The HIV Care and Support programme funded organisations to provide community-based adherence support to people on antiretroviral therapy (ART).