I am visiting Johannesburg and a Catholic institution asking for assistance in a difficult situation. The Catholic Church in South Africa has mainly relied on one big sponsor in the last years: PEPFAR, the US American President’s emergency fund. This was done for several reasons; one being that in the beginning it excluded any condom distribution or work with prostitution as a precondition for receiving these funds. There has been very much debate around it at World AIDS Conferences at times as this resulted in some countries showing a clear increase of infections again. Nevertheless, with the money lots of good was also done, amongst others instituting the distribution of antiretrovirals for thousands of South Africans.
The funds now drying up and so the Church is forced to transfer its patients to the governmental facilities with different results. As specially in Johannesburg also quite a big number of asylum seekers still without papers are among those catered for, these people would anyhow not be eligible for continuation of treatment in a primary health care facility.
So the need for special funding to at least get one doctor looking after those patients is needed and hopefully there is a way to support this for the new year.
From what I have seen and heard it seems that for many patients it is a bitter reality check: coming from church run clinics which really went the extra mile for a patient to ensure his or her health, governmental facilities are mostly overcrowded and not able to cope in this way with their patients. Experts fear, that people will be lost in transition or get lost in transition.This shows once again how important the support of the Catholic Church in providing medical services has been and it is to decry that lack of funding forces closure and that – at least in Johannesburg – the government now refuses to deliver antiretroviral medication as a matter of principle to NGO run medical facilities even if they could continue – forcing so the transfer in a way too often not beneficial for the patients.
With a generation of young people being born HIV positive and with the treat of resistance looming like we have seen it with TB, this country needs the continuation of support from all corners of society. Even if there is the growing impression that we have conquered and beaten the deadly pandemic, it might be too early to come to this conclusion. So it is really to hope that also the churches try their utmost to continue as many services as possible to give those infected and affected all necessary support.