A grassroots approach to HIV and TB is making a real difference in an impoverished Western Cape community.
At age 27, University of Western Cape Nursing Masters graduate Siphokuhle Tinzi has traded an office job as a medical researcher to work for a non-governmental organisation that takes its HIV and TB screening services to the doorstep of poor communities in the Western Cape.
After working as a nurse for a primary health care clinic at the City of Cape Town and later as a medical researcher for the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, Tinzi decided that working in an office was not for her due to her passion for people on the ground.
She joined the TB/HIV Care Association, which deploys mobile clinics to poor communities in Cape Town and other provinces to test citizens for HIV, sexually-transmitted diseases and to do screening for diabetes and TB, among others.
Tinzi and her team operate in the southern suburbs of Cape Town.
There, the socioeconomic challenges are so great that patients who test positive are often unable to afford to get to clinics for further treatment.
“We took a decision to transport them with our own mobile transport to ensure they get the necessary care.”
Established in 1929 as the Nelspoort After Care Committee during a time when there were no drugs for TB treatment, the TB/HIV Care Association aims to prevent, find and help treat HIV and TB in the most vulnerable communities.
They also offer targeted programmes for inmates, sex workers and people who inject drugs.
Mthatha-born Tinzi’s Masters research focused on the treatment of drug-resistant TB and she intends to use her knowledge one day to influence healthcare policy domestically and internationally.
Tinzi plans to do her PhD degree next year and will then research the possibility of reducing the number of drugs that are currently prescribed to TB patients as they “contribute to a lot of clients not finishing their treatment”.