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HIV counselling, testing targets kombi drivers and touts at Egodini

by Staff reporter
18 Apr 2012 at 04:52hrs | Views
THE Newstart Centre yesterday held a Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) exercise at Basch Street Terminus, popularly known as Egodini for commuter omnibus drivers and touts.

A CD4 count test was conducted for the first time at a mobile VCT centre with those who tested HIV positive being given a referral letter to a clinic so as to begin Antiretroviral Treatment (ART).

The exercise began at 9am and ended at 3pm with 150 people receiving voluntary counselling and testing. Of the 150, 21 were women.

The exercise was done in conjunction with Youth for Today and Tomorrow (YTT), a local non-governmental organisation, which mobilised funds from the United States

Embassy through the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

The move was taken after a realisation that those in public transport were usually busy and could therefore not participate in HIV and Aids activities.

When a Chronicle news crew visited the area there was a queue of people waiting to be tested.

A kombi driver who preferred anonymity said because the CD4 count was done at the mobile VCT centre, the exercise was convenient.

"This is a good exercise and I would like to commend the organisers for coming up with such a noble idea. We now know that it is not the end of the world if one tests positive as he or she can live a healthy life," said the driver.

A vendor who only identified herself as NaMolly said although she spent almost an hour in the queue it was worth it.

The Testing and Counselling manager of the Newstart Centre, Mr Chrispin Ngulube, said the response from public transporters was overwhelming.

He said after consultations they decided to have CD4 count testing at mobile VCT centres.

"At the end of the day we had to turn away close to 70 people as the response was overwhelming. The two processes of queuing to get tested and queuing again for your CD4 count was cumbersome. People actually demanded that the CD4 count test be there so as to shorten the time taken to be on ART," said Mr Ngulube.

He said although the target group were public transporters, there were other groups such as vendors who also participated in the exercise.

Mr Ngulube said there was a need to do the process again but bemoaned lack of equipment and inadequate counsellors as a major draw back.

"We had a shortage of tents and counsellors were not enough to attend to all the people. We definitely have to come back here," he said.

Last month a number of stakeholders, among them Matabeleland Aids Council (MAC), Professional Drivers Association (PDA), National Aids Council (NAC) and Bulawayo Public Transporters Association (BUPTA) and the American Embassy, launched the exercise in the city.

Source - TC