5 Years of Blessed Gérard's Hospice HAART Programme Service
On 5 August 2003, BBC Newsnight broadcast the programme "BBC Newsnight 5 August 2003: Hilary Andersson reported from the first national AIDS conference in South Africa". The Director of Health of South Africa said in an interview: "In this environment you cannot even think about antiretroviral drugs".
In September 2003, Johan Viljoen from the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) AIDS office called us and asked if Blessed Gérard's Hospice would be willing to participate in the SACBC's antiretroviral treatment programme. (See: Blessed Gérard's Hospice will start antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS patients as early as 2004!)
Johan Viljoen described Blessed Gérard's Hospice as the "flagship of the AIDS work of the Catholic Church in South Africa".
We accepted the challenge. On 1 April 2004 we were able to employ a nurse and from 1 August 2004 also a doctor for our HAART team.
On 7 September 2004 at 8:11 pm, our first HAART patient was administered the first dose of antiretroviral medicine: Blessed Gérard's Hospice HAART Programme - The Qalile Uhlelo Story.
We now have close to 250 patients on antiretroviral treatment continuously. Dozens more are on the waiting list because their CD4 helper cell count is thankfully still too high, so they don't need the treatment yet.
What is special about our programme, what sets us apart from many others, is:
that we insist on proper preparation of each individual patient and their treatment companion through our HAART preparation courses.
that we provide proper comprehensive AIDS treatment by a multidisciplinary team.
that we offer proper aftercare, which is more than just monitoring medication, but monthly home visits for all our HAART patients, support groups, income generating activities and occupational therapy.