MEDIA ALERT: Mandela to visit first pilot project in South Africa providing free AIDS treatment in public primary health centres

Contacts: Marta Darder, MSF ( 27 82 332 9714) or Emi Maclean, MSF ( 27 833741709) When: 12 December 2002, 9.00 to 10.00 am Where: Nolungile Clinic (Site C), Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa
On Thursday, December 12, former South African president Nelson Mandela will visit HIV/AIDS clinics run by the international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape. Some 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are currently being followed in these clinics located in the township of Khayelitsha, and 300 people are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). The Khayelitsha clinics were the first site in South Africa where ART was offered for free in public community health centers. The clinics were established as a pilot program to test the feasibility, acceptability and affordability of providing AIDS treatment in the public services. After 18 months of operation, the results have been excellent in terms of clinical response to treatment and community acceptability, demonstrating that treatment of AIDS is feasible in resource-poor settings. Strong community involvement and treatment literacy efforts are central components of the program, and have proven critical for increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS and addressing stigma and discrimination. By using generic versions of antiretroviral drugs approved by the Medicines Control Council, MSF is able to provide triple therapy at about R10 ($1) per patient per day - about a fourth of the price of the same medication purchased at a private pharmacy. By using generic versions of antiretroviral drugs approved by the Medicines Control Council, MSF is able to provide triple therapy at about R10 ($1) per patient per day - about a fourth of the price of the same medication purchased at a private pharmacy.
Only one in every thousand people who need treatment in South Africa currently receive it through public services, half of them through the AIDS clinics in Khayelitsha. The challenge now is to scale up treatment programs to reach the estimated 600,000 people who desperately need it in South Africa, and the millions in the region in a similar situation. The Nelson Mandela Foundation will collaborate with MSF in a program to provide comprehensive AIDS care, including ART, in former Transkei. Mr Mandela will visit the clinic, where he will meet with patients and staff. An open event will then take place, where patients receiving ART will explain their experience. Mr Mandela will then address the public. Dr Fareed Abdullah, Head of the HIV/AIDS Program of the Western Cape, will close the visit. Persons available to speak to the media:
  • Dr Fareed Abdullah. Head of HIV/AIDS Program. Provincial Administration of the Western Cape.
  • Dr Eric Goemaere. Head of the MSF mission in South Africa.
  • Sr Nonthutuselo Ntwana and Sr Veliswa Labatala. Professional nurses administering antiretroviral therapy in the AIDS clinics in Khayelitsha.
  • Mrs Nosiseko Kopisani. Originally from Butterworth, Nosiseko has been taking antiretroviral drugs since July 2001. Her partner, who is also infected, supports her with the medication. She will publicly explain to Mr Mandela her experience with treatment.
  • Mr Mathew Damane has been on ART since June 2001 and traveled to Brazil to bring back the cheaper generic versions of antiretroviral drugs that he needs to survive.
  • Mrs Babalwa Tembani is 20 –years –old. She became infected with HIV when she was raped by her uncle at the age of 14. Babalwa is currently on ART. She is deeply involved in education work in schools and youth centers, and is a strong advocate in the community for openness about AIDS and for fighting discrimination.