South African Volunteers, Professionals Build Continuum of Care
Launched in 2002, the Africare HIV/AIDS Service Corps enlists Africans as volunteers within their own communities ― carrying out HIV prevention education, caring for people living with AIDS, training village health workers and, perhaps most important, linking patients in isolated rural areas to medical services at the more-central regional or urban facilities. Africare provides Service Corps Volunteers (SCVs) with training, small stipends and oversight. The SCVs provide, literally, life and hope.
One South African SCV is a woman named Thembsie: age 30, HIV-positive and an Africare volunteer since 2004. Thembsie supports the nursing staff and clients of a hospital's HIV/AIDS outpatient facility. She helps with counseling, home follow-up visits and community outreach. "I have to motivate people to face their challenges and believe in themselves," she says. "My own status motivates me to work even harder."
Thembsie works within the context of a major Africare project in the Chris Hani district of South Africa's Eastern Cape province, where more than 70 percent of the population is unemployed and about one in four people is HIV-positive. There, Africare and in-country partners are creating a continuum of care ― including HIV/AIDS treatment, treatment education, HIV prevention education and support for AIDS orphans ― between three hospitals, 33 rural clinics and their catchment areas.