WORLD AIDS DAY: MSF celebrates a decade of milestones in HIV care - Epworth, Zimbabwe

Thursday, December 1, 2016 — In commemorating World AIDS Day 2016, we celebrate the milestones reached since Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe, partnered in 2006 to establish the Epworth Clinic which offers HIV treatment to thousands of people in the outskirts of Harare.

This year we revisit the first group of patients from Epworth’s HIV programme including our  very first patient, 40 year-old Florence.

Florence is a testament to the success of the HIV programme in Epworth. Her health has improved and her HIV infection is under control. She says she’s no longer ashamed of her HIV status.

“Being diagnosed HIV positive doesn’t affect me anymore, although initially, it upset me. Now that I have accepted the situation it hasn’t changed the course of my life.”

Like Florence, many people have benefitted from the programme and are living positively. Here please find the testimonies of other patients who have benefitted from the HIV programme in Epworth

Epworth clinic has grown from one humble stand-alone building, into a fully-fledged community medical hub with: a laboratory, pharmacy, consultation rooms, a day clinic, youth friendly corner and meeting facilities. Along with providing general healthcare, Epworth Clinic focuses on the treatment of more than 30,000 HIV patients who've received medical care.

The Epworth Clinic ‘community care’ approach goes beyond screening and medicating, it extends to running support groups for TB and HIV, providing counselling and education sessions and empowering nurses to manage and distribute medication to HIV patients. This approach has decentralised treatment from the overburdened and often inaccessible central hospital to health centres in the community.

In the 10 years since the HIV programme began in Epworth, HIV prevalence has reduced from over 30 per cent at its peak, to 15 per cent, and today over 1000 HIV positive patients have formed support groups in the community.

In the late 1990’s, and at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Zimbabwe was one of the countries worst hit. At its peak in 2000, over 30% of the population was HIV positive, many without access to even basic treatment.

Today, the number of people who are HIV positive in Zimbabwe has reduced to 15%  but major gaps in treatment remain...

These barriers include a lack of medical staff, the high cost of treatment and the long distances people must travel to reach medical care. These are challenges that community programmes, like the one at Epworth Clinic, seek to address.

For more information and to arrange interviews

Angela & SeipatI

Five year old Shamiso looks through the window of her home after returning from school, alongside her mother, Prisca, at her modest one room home in Epworth on Harare’s outskirts. <br/><br/>44 year old Prisca started HIV treatment in 2008. Prisca joined the Epworth HIV program in 2011. Her daughter, Shamiso was born in January 2011, while her mother was part of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission program (PMTC). As a result, Shamison was born HIV negative. Photographer: Rachel Corner/De Beeldunie
A group of HIV-positive women in Epworth, one of Zimbabwe's poorest townships, decided to form a soccer team and to compete in tournaments. They are fighting stigma by showing everyone the meaning of positive living. All members of the team called ARV Swallows are MSF patients and receive antiretroviral treatment at the Epworth Polyclinic, where MSF treats almost 7.000 HIV-positive patients a year. ARV Swallows team together with their Coach, Jonas. Photographer: Joanna Stavropoulou
Everyday, the MSF supported HIV clinic at Epworth has long queues of patients waiting to see an MSF doctor. Photographer: Joanna Stavropoulou
Beating HIV means also beating the stigma. MSF in Epworth, Zimbabwe, helps HIV positive children and adolescents to regain their dignity. In HIV support groups they speak about their life being positive. Drawing, singing and playing helps the kids to get more self-confident. Photographer: Ann Sellberg