|Themba Lethu Clinic|
Themba Lethu is Nguni for “our hope” and captures the sentiment of Right to Care’s patients concerning the organisation’s contribution to alleviating the HIV & AIDS pandemic.
TLC started operating in April 2004 in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Health, as part of the Government’s Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care Management and Treatment (CCMT) programme. The clinic is a division of the Medicine Department at Helen Joseph Hospital, which forms part of the academic complex of the University of the Witwatersrand.
TLC has a strong link with the Clinical HIV Research Unit (CHRU), with its wealth of clinical expertise. There is a three-way partnership between Right to Care, CARE and the Department of Health. Following the government’s requirement to integrate the treatment of TB and HIV, a TB Focal Point was launched alongside the HIV clinic.
TLC serves patients across Gauteng and beyond, due to its reputation for high quality care. It offers comprehensive HIV care (voluntary counselling and testing, adherence training, antiretroviral treatment and support services), TB/HIV/STI integrated services and referrals to and from other health facilities. It has also developed a highly effective down-referral model.
The clinic’s sustainability is attained through partnerships with provincial government and aligning programmes with government’s guidelines.
TLC uses TherapyEdge, a disease management software tool, for its clinicians and for research data extraction purposes. Internal and external stakeholders include the training department of Right to Care, IT department, Data Capturing Unit (DCU), Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, CHRU, Department of Medicine Helen Joseph Hospital, provincial government, National Health Laboratory Services, non-governmental organisation partners, South African HIV Clinicians Society, and Rightmed pharmacy.
Its staff complement of 70 is drawn from Right to Care, CARE, the Department of Health, and other Right to Care units. It comprises medical doctors, primary health care nurses, other nursing categories, pharmacists and assistant pharmacists, therapeutic counsellors, general counsellors, and clerical and cleaning staff.
Since the clinic’s inception, a rapid growth of patient numbers has been seen with about 24 000 patients in care. About 14 000 patients have been initiated on ART, 8000 are on treatment. In 2007, about 1400 were screened for TB and about 4800 were counselled and tested.
The lost-to-follow-up rate has shown marked improvements in recent years and is now below 5%.
TLC has implement initiated an SMS communication tool, called TxtAlert, to alert patients of appointment changes or remind them of their clinic visits. This system has been extended to include medical alert messages from clinical visits and laboratory safety results. TxtAlert, in partnership with the Praekelt Foundation, has contributed to the reduction in missed appointments and lost-to-follow-ups.