HIV positive women are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer, HIV negative women are also at risk.Pic: Sibongile Nkosi

The new integrated Chronic Care Initiative was launched recently at Uthukela District in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

According to Right to Care’s cervical cancer coordinator, Sibongile Ramotshela, the aim is to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases in HIV positive patients.

“People living with HIV are at high risk of developing common cancers, TB, and other non-communicable diseases (NCD’s). This is due to the HIV infection itself and antiretroviral therapy side effects as well as lifestyle factors,” Ramotshela said.

“We aim to optimize the use of available resources and integrate screening and prevention. Ultimately we are aiming for a single visit approach which allows patients to have all their chronic conditions reviewed one at appointment.”

Right to Care is working with the regional and district departments of Health to scale up awareness, screening and treatment services. Community women’s groups and faith-based organisations are also helping to raise awareness.

Dr Sibongiseni Mbatha of Right to Care said: “The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and the cause of about 70% of cervical cancers. The HPV vaccination for young girls is not well implemented in a school health progamme in this area, despite it being a primary prevention strategy. Furthermore, pap smear screening in this district is well below the levels required to effectively prevent the cancers.”

“The national HIV prevalence in South Africa is 29.7%, yet HIV prevalence here in KZN has reached 40.1 %. HIV and other communicable diseases and NCD’s are also on increase in this province, exacerbated by poverty and unemployment,” she explained.

The programme is being rolled out in three subdistricts of Uthukela – the Alfred Duma Local Municipality , Ukhahlamba Municipality and the Nkosilanga Libalele District. – Health-e News.