During the peak COVID-19 waves in South Africa, many people were scared to go to health facilities, but Sipho Thabethe had been feeling so unwell that he went to the clinic near his home, the Kabokweni Community Healthcare Centre. This rural clinic is located in the Ehlanzeni district where Right to Care is supporting the Department of Health through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-funded and the USAID-funded APACE (Accelerating Programme Achievements to Control the Epidemic) program.
Thabethe described his symptoms to the healthcare worker there. “She proposed that I take an HIV test, and I felt very scared,” he said.
The nurse informed Thabethe that he was HIV positive, and said his immunity was very low. “It wasn’t easy to accept this news,” says Thabethe. “She explained that HIV is a manageable condition, but I would have to take treatment for the rest of my life. I realized a lot of things in my life would have to change.”
Thabethe started to take his treatment, the new TLD regimen (dolutegravir, lamivudine, and tenofovir). He was also put onto TB preventive therapy. At first he experienced side-effects, but they subsided. “I started to feel better and realized I could live a normal life. HIV is not a death sentence,” he says.
“I was reminded to keep my appointments and collect my treatment, no matter what. Now, collecting my medicine is part of my normal life. It is something I do for myself,” says Thabethe.
After six months of treatment, the nurse informed Thabethe that his HIV was suppressed. She explained what undetectable = untransmittable means. “This was good news because it reduces the risk of me transmitting HIV to someone else. Taking treatment is important because it’s not just about you, but the people you love,” he adds.
The clinic is one of 139 USAID-supported health facilities in Ehlanzeni district that recently reached the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. Now, the focus is on reaching the 95-95-95 targets.