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Mobile clinics bring health services to communities

Young women from Gugulethu check out the new mobile wellness clinics.

The Networking HIV and AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA) will launch 10 new mobile wellness clinics in vulnerable communities across the country this week to prevent HIV and TB and provide health services to those most at risk.

The units, which cost R1 million each and are funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, are fully kitted out to conduct HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infection screening and testing as well as dispensing medication and providing sexual and reproductive health services in even the most rural and isolated communities.

“The vans will be useful because where we are staying, we stay far from the clinics and sometimes when you go to the clinic it’s full and we don’t have patience to wait,” says Lieketseng, a young woman from Guguletu in Cape Town. Peer group trainer, Nstoaki, agrees:

“It is good for us because, living in informal settlements, we will not have to go so far to get to the clinic. Sometimes the nurses at clinics are shouting to us so we are scared to go. If you tell them, I have an STI, then they say ‘why are you sleeping with your boyfriend without using a condom?’”

The mobile clinics all come equipped with a private, COVID19-compliant counselling and testing room, an examination room, a screen for broadcasting health information, a toilet and a secure refrigerated store for medication and other supplies. Nurses and social workers will staff the clinics, providing non-judgemental and youth-friendly health services near where people live and work, including:

  • HIV testing services
  • Well-woman examinations including cervical cancer screening
  • Screening and testing for TB, STIs and COVID-19
  • Dispensing antiretroviral medication: ART and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Dispensing contraceptives
  • Information, advice and support

Lieketseng and Ntsoaki talk about the benefit of having wellness services come to them.

“Sometimes at the local clinics, they say ‘there is no doctor here’ and they send you to the day hospital,” continues Lieketseng. With the mobile clinics, basic health services can be provided on the spot while referrals can be made directly to facilities if further treatment and care is needed.

“The populations that we work with are those most at risk for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections – like adolescent girls and young women and sex workers,” says NACOSA’s Acting Executive Director, Marieta de Vos. “But they are also the populations that face the most barriers to accessing health services so we want to take the services to them.”

The mobile wellness clinics will be able to reach vulnerable populations in the most hard-to-reach sections of the communities NACOSA’s serves, helping to prevent HIV, TB and STIs and saving lives by ensuring that vulnerable people access the care and treatment they need.

“The mobile clinics will be corner to corner so that we know we can get help. We can get help for things we didn’t even know about,” says Ntsoaki.

The NACOSA-branded mobile clinics lined up and ready to roll out.