“South Africa's poorest and most vulnerable women trust Marie Stopes South Africa (MSSA) to provide them with quality family planning and reproductive healthcare; our work prevents unnecessary deaths and makes a sustainable impact on the lives of thousands of people every year. Our clients are at the centre of everything we do, and it is our mission to ensure that everyone has a choice when it comes to their health and wellness.” Denise Hunt, Country Director, Marie Stopes South Africa
What HIV support services does Marie Stopes provide?
Since opening its doors in 1996, Marie Stopes South Africa (MSSA) has provided a full range of sexual and reproductive health services to women, men and youth through its network of 33 national health centres. This includes diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and counselling, a full range of long- and short-term contraceptive choices (including permanent methods), pap smears, breast checks and male circumcisions.
What has the progress been on the MSSA HIV integration initiative?
In 2007, in support of the Millennium Development Goals 5 & 6¹, the organisation was awarded donor funding with the aim of increasing equitable access to HIV/AIDS information and services nationally. This project was implemented and integrated through MSSA's comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programming across seven provinces and opened six new reproductive health centres in two regions; Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. The six new centres have offered a full range of reproductive health services to poor and vulnerable women and men with an emphasis on HIV preventive services, completely free of charge for the period of five years (2007-2012).
How many people have utilised this service?
In the first year of the project, 851 free HIV tests were completed. By 2009, this figure had quadrupled to over 8 200. In 2010, MSSA tested an additional 9 278 South Africans, and to date in 2011, the figure stands at 11 369 – demonstrating that in under five years, MSSA has provided over 32 500 free HIV tests to individuals across South Africa. The project is on target to educate and inform over 1 million individuals (through its campaigns, information sessions, formal talks, focus groups, behaviour change programmes and educational materials) with the aim of reducing stigma, increasing awareness, strengthening linkages and building capacity of communities, individuals and stakeholders in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.
How long have HIV testing and counselling services been offered free at all the centres and will this continue, if so, for how long?
MSSA has committed to offering free HIV testing and counselling through every one of its centres since 2007. This will is an initiative that we are committed to for the foreseeable future.
Do you think there is enough HIV/AIDS awareness and education, more especially in rural areas?
We are within the grasp of an HIV free generation. What we need to achieve this goal is ongoing, wide spread education and awareness of the disease as well as access to forms of contraception and preventative measures, such as male circumcision, to prevent transmission. This is exactly why we will continue our community education programs and focus on areas which have little or no access to sexual and reproductive health and information.
Are you clinics accessible for people in rural areas, especially the poor?
Each of our centres are strategically placed in easily accessible and safe locations, staffed by professionally qualified nurses and doctors and supported by a Free National Call Centre (0800 11 77 85). There are also seven micro-centres placed in Gauteng and KZN offering discounted SRH services in informal settlements.
Do you ever have campaigns in rural areas or mobile clinics for such awareness?
MSSA runs a successful Community Based Educators (CBEs) Program in the Eastern Cape, KZN, Gauteng and Limpopo. CBEs prevent workshops, focus groups, behaviour change programs, health talks and ongoing awareness raising campaigns. They focus on raising awareness and educating men, women and youth on access to services, human rights, gender equity, healthcare and referrals to local resources.
How can people get hold of MSSA and book for a test?
To book a free HIV testing at your nearest testing centre or for further information, please contact the Toll Free National Call Centre on 0800 11 77 85.