In South Africa, with Pact’s support, drop-in centers offer testing and a safe space for children vulnerable to HIV

June 13, 2019
Martha Khoza, in Steembok, South Africa

Bringing her children to the Wellness Day at the Hluvhukani Drop-in Center, located in the rural community of Steenbok, South Africa, was not an easy choice for Martha Khoza.

Her oldest daughter has tuberculosis, just like her husband did before he passed away from the disease a few years earlier. Due to the link between TB and HIV, social workers had identified Martha’s daughter as high risk and referred her for HIV testing, a service that she could receive at the center on Wellness Day.  

The Hluvhukani Drop-in Center has 12 full-time staff, mainly caregivers for the 115 orphans, vulnerable children, adolescents and youth in the community who the center supports. Through social worker trainings provided by the Government Capacity Building and Support program (GCBS), staff have been able to provide more sustainable and effective care and health education to their communities, so they can effectively educate adults in the community about HIV, TB, and the importance of getting tested. GCBS is implemented by Pact with funding from USAID.   

Steenbok social workers who have been trained through GCBS say that they’ve seen an improvement in the community’s willingness to get tested, and an increase in the number of people who know their HIV status. 

“I was not comfortable to test myself or my girls because I was scared,” Martha told staff, “but through the wellness day and what I learned I felt comfortable and safe to test myself and my girls.”

She has seven children, and all have now been tested for HIV.

She added, “I learned a lot on the wellness day at the center. Even if you are HIV-positive, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road, that you are a bad person and that you will die.”

A few hundred miles away, the Tshwane North Outreach (TNO) Drop-in Center has been serving the Wolmer community in Pretoria for over 20 years, and is also supported by the GCBS program.

Inspired to go into social work by her mother, who was also a social worker, Elizabeth Lombard, fondly known as “Nandi,” is extremely passionate about her job: “For me, this is not work. I love doing what I do… This is a safe space for the children, we are a family here.”

TNO supports 101 children between the ages of 4 and 18, and all of them currently know their HIV status—a huge accomplishment.

Tshililo Vurinosowa, a GCBS social worker who supports TNO and works closely with Nandi, says Pact has been instrumental in case file management, training caregivers in HIV risk assessment and supporting TNO with testing partners. 

“All of this training has allowed the social workers and caregivers to go out with confidence and get consent from parents to test their children,” she says, “especially those at high risk.”

The GCBS program, funded by USAID/PEPFAR and implemented by Pact, supports South Africa’s Department of Social Development in providing services for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS and their families.

Lead photo: Martha Khoza