HIV & TB Response

“Going to the clinic isn’t easy. I wake up early to be there by 7am & then I only leave around 4pm” #MoreARVPillsNow

This week we are marching in Thabo Mofutsanyana, Lejweleputswa, and Dr Kenneth Kaunda to demand longer ARV refills for people living with HIV. In South Africa, more than 2 million people living with HIV are still not on life saving HIV treatment — some people having never known their HIV status, and worryingly others having started on treatment and then stopped. Often people stop collecting their ARVs because of the unwelcoming environment in our clinics. We wait all day to be seen. Our files take hours to find or go missing. If we are late for our appointments, we are shouted at and sent to the back of the queue. Here Elsa* tells her story about being given one month supply because of “missing” an appointment.

For Elsa* it feels like one “mistake” of missing an appointment date has wiped out all the careful treatment adherence she has worked on and because of this she’s now being punished by her clinic and made to go back to a monthly refill. 

The Potchefstroom local has used Mimosa Clinic in the town since 2007. It was when she was diagnosed HIV positive and she was initiated on treatment there.  

“Everything has been fine and I never had any problems before, so they were giving me two months. That was good. But I think that if you are stable, like I am, then they should even be giving us our pills for three months or even six months.”

“In February I missed an appointment date — my first time ever — and they didn’t want to understand or let me explain, they just put me back to one month,” she says, speaking in Afrikaans. 

“I am not happy; this was a first time mistake. Going to the clinic isn’t easy; I wake up early to walk there and to be there by 7am. And then I will only leave around 4pm. The staff are slow and everything takes long. I sit there with the chronic patients, like those with diabetes, and you can see they are suffering sitting there the whole day with no food or water,” she says. 

The long waiting time in the clinic she says are made worse when there are emergencies. There are staff shortages, she says, and this means when there are inevitable emergencies, which means everything is backed up and patients wait even longer.  

“One time there was woman who was in labour and another time someone came after being stabbed. When it’s like that all the nurses rush there and they just leave us like that, we just have to sit,” she says. 

Another reason Elsa says clinic visits at Mimosa Clinic are a bad experience is that patients are often made to wait outside the facility. She says even though Mimosa Clinic is a 24-hour facility, the morning shift cleaning staff arrive at the same time when most of the patients arrive — around 7am. 

“They start to clean then but they will make the patients wait outside. It can be cold or raining but you have to stand outside. I don’t understand that if it’s a 24-hour clinic why they can’t clean in the time before patients come there.” 

“It’s not nice to go to the clinic like that and now I have to do this every month,” she says. 

* Name changed to protect identity