Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In
  • Error loading navigation: The Web application at https://hst.org.za could not be found. Verify that you have typed the URL correctly. If the URL should be serving existing content, the system administrator may need to add a new request URL mapping to the intended application.

HST Blog

Jul 12
Let’s understand U=U, with Dr Douglas Ngcobo

by Siyabonga Gema (Health Systems Trust Communications Officer)

Dr Ngcobo.jpg

The concept of Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) is an exciting development in the global HIV response and a massive step towards achieving the 95–95–95 HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression targets. However, as with many health challenges, much should still be done to educate our communities, raise awareness of this concept, and answer various questions that people may have. This role falls squarely upon organisations such as the Health Systems Trust (HST) and other role-players in the public health sector who interact with communities and promote health care. Dr Douglas Ngcobo ‒ Community Co-ordinator of HST's project demonstrating community-based HIV treatment (DO ART) ‒ unpacks U=U and answers a few questions.

What's meant by U=U and how does it work?

In general, passing or transmitting HIV to another person depends on the amount of the virus in the body fluids of an HIV-positive person. When someone is diagnosed with HIV and is initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV drugs prevent the virus from reproducing or making copies of itself in the body. If the prescribed HIV drugs are taken and are working properly, the viral load usually declines after starting the drugs, making it difficult for HIV to reproduce its copies and to infect new cells in the body, and this supports achievement of a low viral load.

When someone's viral load is low, that person is more likely to have a healthy immune system. The lower the viral load, the less likely is it that an HIV-positive person will transmit HIV to another. When a person is virally suppressed such that the virus is undetectable, this means that they cannot infect their partner. That is what is meant by 'U=U'. Having an undetectable viral load means that there is barely a trace of the virus to be found in body fluids that transmit HIV such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. It is therefore important for people to take their HIV drugs as prescribed, so that they have an undetectable viral load and can prevent their partners from being infected with HIV.

How long does one need to be on treatment to achieve U=U?

Studies show that for almost everyone who is initiated on ART and starts taking HIV medication correctly, their viral load is likely to drop to an undetectable level within six months or less. Patients on ART whose viral load is undetectable must continue taking the treatment correctly in order to maintain viral suppression, thus ensuring a strong immune system.

Is 'undetectable' the same as being HIV-negative?

It is important to note that there is currently no cure for HIV. Scientific evidence shows that even if one's viral load is undetectable, latent HIV cells remain in some parts of the body such as the gastrointestinal tract, brain, or bone marrow. Therefore, having an undetectable viral load is not the same as being HIV-negative.

What is the science behind the U=U concept?

Various randomised controlled trials have supported the finding of 'undetectable = untransmittable'. These clinical trials include one conducted in Switzerland in 2008, where experts agreed that people whose viral load is undetectable cannot sexually pass HIV to their intimate partners.

The largest study, called HIV Prevention Trails Network (HPTN 052), was conducted in 2005 at 13 sites in nine countries (Brazil, Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, India, United States, Zimbabwe, Thailand and South Africa).

In 2016, a PARTNER study looked at the risk of HIV transmission among heterosexual and gay mixed-status couples in which the partner living with HIV took HIV treatment and achieved an undetectable viral load. The PARTNER study results showed that after 58 000 instances of sexual contact among 1 166 couples who were not using condoms, there were zero cases of HIV acquisition among the couples. The study results for these clinical trials showed that people with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to another person.

Does U=U mean that condoms are no longer important to use?

Condom usage is still important even if the person has achieved U=U. Condoms protect us from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies. It is therefore important to use condoms.

How does this concept shift perceptions of HIV and reduce stigma?

The U=U concept is likely to shift people's perceptions about HIV and reduce the stigma associated with it.  If our families, colleagues and friends, and society in general, understand the principle of U=U, they are likely to accept that HIV is a chronic medical condition (like any other) which should and can be properly managed. With current advanced technologies and emerging research for the HIV response, people will begin to understand that HIV is no longer a death sentence.

What gaps still exist in educating the public about the importance of taking up treatment and staying on treatment should one become HIV-positive?

Unfortunately, there is still a gap in educating the public about the importance of taking up HIV treatment. Important information on HIV management should be given during pre- and post-test counselling, and clients who are initiated on ART should be informed about the benefits of taking treatment as prescribed and what to do if they experience side-effects, rather than stopping their medication without reporting this to the healthcare worker.

People's cultural beliefs and misconceptions about HIV contribute to poor adherence and treatment interruptions. While some clients may have relevant information about the importance of taking and staying on HIV treatment, the current unemployment levels in South Africa mean that people's socio-economic status makes it difficult for them to reach a healthcare facility to collect their medication. Other factors include facility infrastructure challenges, long waiting periods in congested clinics, negative attitudes from the staff, and patients' non-disclosure due to stigma.

Just as health education is imperative to inform the public about the importance of taking HIV medication, it is equally vital to address these other barriers that contribute to poor adherence by making treatment easily accessible and providing psychosocial support based on individual patients' needs.

What is society's role in supporting efforts aimed at promoting the uptake of ART?

Society can play a meaningful role by supporting HIV-positive patients on ART, rather than judging them. Caring for and supporting one another in our communities can help us to recognise the challenges faced by our friends and neighbours, provide the necessary support, and stop stigmatisation based on their HIV-positive status. As community members, we are responsible for loving and supporting one another towards health and wellbeing.


 


Jul 05
Mental Illness in Children

​by Siyabonga Gema (Communications Officer)

mental ill.jpg

Mental illness is difficult to handle for most people, especially for families with children who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions. The stigma associated with mental illness, coupled with a lack of knowledge poses major obstacles in dealing with the scourge of mental illness. For parents, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that their child has a mental health condition, making it more challenging for the child to access the right care and support. This is why initiatives such as Mental Illness Awareness Month, celebrated every July, are vital in raising awareness and educating the public.

Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, manage your feelings and behave. A mental illness may also be called a mental health disorder. It is patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving that cause distress or get in the way of being able to act. Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day. Many children occasionally experience fears and worries or display disruptive behaviours. If symptoms are serious and persistent and interfere with school, home, or play, the child may be diagnosed with a mental disorder.

Children often experience mild mental illnesses, but they can also be exceedingly serious. A third of children and teenagers will at some point in their lives encounter a mental illness, making up about 25% of cases in any given year. The most common childhood mental disorders are anxiety disorders, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Other common types of mental illnesses in childhood include substance-use disorders like alcohol use disorders. It is extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of any illness, including possible mental illness conditions. This is why parents need to pay careful attention to their children's behaviour, how they interact with people around them and the surrounding environment.

It is important to do thorough research to know what to look out for and consult your nearest health facility should you suspect that your child may exhibit any or all of the signs. Mayo Clinic lists warning signs of mental illness in children:

  • Sadness that lasts two or more weeks.
  • Changes in being social or staying away from others.
  • Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself.
  • Talking about death or suicide.
  • Having outbursts or being very moody or testy.
  • Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful.
  • Big changes in mood, behaviour or personality.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Getting headaches or stomach aches often.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Doing poorly in school.
  • Not going to school.


Symptoms of mental disorders change over time as a child grows, and may include difficulties with how a child plays, learns, speaks, and acts, or how the child handles their emotions. Symptoms often start in early childhood, although some disorders may develop during the teenage years. The diagnosis is often made in the school years and sometimes earlier; however, some children with a mental disorder may not be recognised or diagnosed as having one.

Families of children with mental health conditions need to create a supportive environment which enables the child to feel comfortable and free in their surroundings. Apart from adhering to treatment and specific therapies, tips to create a supportive environment include:

  • Spending time with your children doing enjoyable activities
  • maintaining routines as much as possible – such as bed time and meal times
  • regularly asking your child how they are
  • acknowledging and respecting your child's feelings
  • listening to your child's concerns
  • speaking with your child's school or childcare centre
  • encouraging your child's strengths.


This Mental Illness Awareness month, let's all take initiative in educating one another about mental illness and stand together in fighting stigma. For more information, visit:

https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/basics.html

https://masiviwe.org.za/

https://www.sadag.org/

 

 

 

 

 


Jul 04
Inspiring men through compassion, empathy and dedication: A day in the life of HST’s Psychosocial Advisor, Nhlanhla Mazibuko

by Siyabonga Gema (HST Communications Officer)

Nhlanhka Mazibuko.jpg


As a true embodiment of community work, Nhlanhla Mazibuko reflects the values of Health Systems Trust (HST) and reminds us of what a calling to public health work should be all about.

Based in Zululand District, he has rolled up his sleeves and is hard at work, changing the lives of the most vulnerable. We caught up with Nhlanhla as he shed light on his calling to social work and his journey with HST.

When did you join HST and what does your role entail?

I joined HST on 2 January 2024 as a Community Engager for eThekwini District for the Community ART project under the supervision of Dr Douglas Ngcobo. My responsibility was to engage with the community leaders to negotiate entry for the Department of Health (DoH) and implementation of the project in different communities, and also to build stakeholder relations with community leaders. We facilitated meetings with community leaders in eThekwini to plan collaboration with the leaders and community as a whole when implementing the project. I held this role for two months, and then I was appointed as a Psychosocial Advisor for the SA SURE PRO Project in Zululand District, where I started in the role on 1 March 2024.

My current role is to provide technical assistance in the form of capacity-building on the National Department of Health's Differentiated Model of Care (DMoC) Model Standard Operating Procedures and the Zoë-Life HIV disclosure counselling Talk-tool kit to Zululand facilities. As a Psychosocial Advisor, I provide training on child and adolescent disclosure counselling, enhanced adherence counselling, improvising healthcare referral systems, forming of support groups with children and their primary caregivers, and tracking and tracing of patients who have disengaged from care. I also provide social work supervision to a Psychosocial Advisor intern who is based at Njoko Clinic. I am responsible for building good stakeholder relationships with district partners implementing child protection services in Zululand, and I work hand in hand with community-based organisations (CBOs) and the Department of Social Development (DSD). I also work with health Social Workers to conduct bi-directional referrals and plan for collaboration in the district.

Why did you choose to work in the public health space?

I chose the public health because as someone with a social work calling, I understand that being a Social Worker, you serve vulnerable individuals, groups and communities in different settings or areas and help them improve and balance their psychosocial well-being. I started working in the child protection environment at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NICRO). Thereafter I was appointed by Pact South Africa to be based at the DSD as a Government Capacity-building and Support Social Worker in Mpumalanga Province, where I provided capacity-building in HIV prevention with CBOs towards achieving the 90-90-90 HIV targets for orphans, vulnerable children and youth, and for fostered children. I developed a passion and love for implementing HIV prevention programmes and child protection services when I started at the DSD, and I continued to work with HIV services at Anova Health Institute and other public health organisations. With over 10 years of experience, I still enjoy working in public health settings.

As a man working in public health, what challenges do you encounter in engaging with other men on health matters?

Men are still afraid to take the initiative in accessing health services, even in their nearest healthcare facilities, and they do not open up to healthcare providers until they develop a sense of trust. Through engaging men on issues affecting them, and from experience in implementing men's dialogues, I have noted that men don't feel comfortable being served by female healthcare providers in clinics, and they indicate that for a man to be seen accessing healthcare services is a sign of weakness. Men want to be respected and given enough time to express themselves when talking about their health, and they tend to be afraid to report any form of abuse they experience at home, as they see this also as a form of weakness. After building a good relationship with individual men, they open up and share their personal experiences of psychosocial and biomedical issues affecting them.

Where do you think there are gaps in ensuring that men receive health care?

Men seem to be uninformed about the healthcare services rendered at their nearest facilities and as a result they tend to sit at home not accessing services, but if more community-based men's dialogues are conducted in different communities, especially in rural areas, men will learn to take responsibility of their lives and start to access services. Some men indicate that they are afraid of accessing healthcare services because of what are they are going to be informed about their health results, and if the results are not good, they don't know how they will inform their partners and they feel that this will cause conflict at home. Community education is still needed for men in different communities to help them change their mindset.

What is your biggest career highlight at HST?

Since my appointment as a Psychosocial Advisor under SA SURE PRO, I am trying my level best to make sure that there is internal programme integration or layering of services for our patients by collaborating with colleagues from other HST programmes. I led by example when we conducted a Men's Dialogue at Njoko Clinic in the KwaMandlakazi village in KwaNongoma by being at the forefront of organising the dialogue and bringing stakeholders to the gathering, as the Community ART Project did not have a male official to facilitate the event. The men in that community indicated that they prefer to engage with men about health and social issues affecting them, so as a male Psychosocial Advisor, I decided to step in and collaborate with Dr Ngcobo in successfully planning the Men's Dialogue.

What are your next career goals?

My main goal is to work towards ensuring that children, adolescents and their families live positive lives, and to help our patients achieve viral suppression and succeed with their future goals. I also plan to work towards ensuring that as HST, we integrate our programmes and support each other to reach our organisational objectives and goals. Another plan is to make sure that we build and sustain good working relationships with CBOs and government departments rendering services to the same beneficiaries served by HST.

How do you think we can empower and educate our boys to build a safer and healthier society?

It is very important to reach boys at an early age to equip them with important information about health and psychosocial issues, especially in light of the scourge of gender-based violence which is mostly perpetrated by men. We need to train our boys to support and protect their girl counterparts at an early age, and encourage them to seek professional help when encountering any issues so that they can live a positive lifestyle. We need to have regular talks with young boys in different communities to pick up issues affecting them and make sure that they are attended to or referred for help. We must make sure that child protection services, healthcare services, and psychosocial services are known in rural areas and that boys have access to them. In that way, we will be able empower and educate our young boys.


Jun 26
SANCA leads the way with their “Kick your habit” campaign

​By Willemien Jansen (HST Copy and Content Editor)

CANSA article.jpg

Research shows that the proportion of South Africans consuming marijuana, cocaine and heroin has increased substantially since the early 2000s. Less than 2% of South Africans polled in 2002 admitted to using illegal substances in the previous three months, including cocaine, marijuana, amphetamine, inhalants, sedatives, hallucinogens, and opiates. By 2017, the percentage had increased to 10%. According to a study done by researchers at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), a growing percentage of patients visiting rehabilitation facilities between 2012 and 2017 had an opioid addiction, primarily to heroin. A study done in Cape Town found that "Despite high levels of substance use disorders in Cape Town, substance abuse treatment utilization is low among people from disadvantaged communities in Cape Town." Clearly, the use of illicit drugs is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in South Africa.

This is why campaigns like the South African National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Dependence's (SANCA) is so important. This year's campaign is titled "Kick your habit" and runs from 26 to 30 June. According to SANCA, only one in seven people have access to treatment. SANCA explains the campaign as follows:

"The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the complexities of addiction and dependency and to spread awareness through experience by challenging individuals in our communities and across the country to give up one thing or habit for a week and experience, albeit briefly, what a substance-dependent might go through in treatment."

They say that with this campaign, they aim to have experience lead to education.

"Whether this 'thing' is caffeine, tobacco, chocolate, or shopping is wholly up to the individual. However, it is important to carefully consider your decision and choose a daily habit. Raising awareness of the difficulties associated with substance misuse brings us one step closer to reducing the incidence and prevalence of substance misuse in our country. As citizens of this nation, it is our duty to work together to secure a better future for next generations."

Support SANCA's campaign by giving up one of your habits for a week and experience what a substance-dependent person might go through. Post your experiences on social media to further raise awareness of the "Kick your habit" campaign.

To read more about SANCA's campaign, go to the SANCA campaign website.

For information about private rehab facilities, visit We Do Recover

For more information on state rehab facilities, visit the Rehabilitation website.

 


Jun 19
Healthy Men Build Healthy Communities: Prostate Cancer Awareness

By Siyabonga Gema – Communications Officer, Health Systems Trust 

african-american-man-holding-blue-ribbon.jpg

Men's Health Awareness Month, celebrated every June, aims to raise awareness of, and to educate men on preventable diseases, emphasising the importance of early detection, encouraging men to lead healthy lives. Generally, men are perceived as strong and resilient, attributes that men world-wide strive to exhibit and uphold. As impressive and inspiring as this can be, it may pose a barrier to men accessing health care and support due to the fear of being seen as weak or incapable of handling the pressures associated with being a man in this day and age.

It is precisely for this reason that June is earmarked as the month when men receive much-needed information about their health and how, through taking care of their health, men contribute to the well-being of society as a whole. A burning issue which is a serious threat to men, especially as they grow older, is cancer and, specifically, prostate cancer. Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Sometimes the cancer in the prostate develops too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live and because of this, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment. However, it sometimes progresses rapidly and tends to spread. This is more likely to cause problems and needs treatment to stop it from spreading.

Prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the urethra.

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
  • needing to rush to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to urinate (hesitancy)
  • straining or taking a long time while urinating
  • weak flow
  • the feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
  • blood in urine or blood in semen.


These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer. Many men's prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called benign prostate enlargement.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, "prostate cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in men and the fourth most common cancer overall. There were more than 1.4 million new cases of prostate cancer in 2020". Further to this, CANSA indicates that "lifetime risk for prostate cancer in men in South Africa, is 1 in 15, according to the 2019 National Cancer Registry''. Prostate cancer accounts for about 13% of male deaths from cancer in South Africa. Prostate cancer in Black South African men is more likely to be hereditary than in other racial groups; hence, they are disproportionately affected. The statistics above shed light on the seriousness of the situation which calls on various stakeholders, especially the government, to devise an action plan to tackle the issue of prostate cancer prevalence in South Africa.

In 2012, as part of the National Development Plan 2030, the South African government set its sights on significantly reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases through strengthening monitoring and prevention in the public health services of common diseases such as breast and cervical cancers in women, and prostate and lung cancers, amongst other action items. While the treatment can work, the best way to tackle diseases, including prostate cancer, is through prevention. This is why efforts have been centred on strengthening health information sharing and public education programmes targeted at men who are most vulnerable to prostate cancer. Men are encouraged to undergo regular screening and testing because early detection is key. It is also crucial to know the risk factors that may lead to prostate cancer to ensure that you access screening and testing services. These risks include:

  • Age: Men over 50 years are more at risk. More than 80% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65 years.
  • Family history / Genetic factors: If a father or brother had prostate cancer, there is an increased risk of getting the disease.
  • Unhealthy Diet: There is a relationship between a diet high in animal fat and protein (especially red meat), and prostate cancer.


This Men's Health Awareness Month, the Health Systems Trust calls on all sectors of society to rally support for men through the provision of health, social and other essential services that empower men to continue playing their crucial role in our communities and their families. An array of resources are available for men to access, including support groups and engagement platforms where men engage on pressing issues with other men and empower each other with information.

For more information on prostate cancer and Men's Health Awareness Month visit;

https://www.gov.za/news/events/health-awareness-events/mens-health-month

https://www.kznhealth.gov.za/prostate-cancer.htm

https://cansa.org.za/prostate-cancer/

https://menshealthmonth.org/

 


Jun 14
Celebrating Youth Day: Empowering the Leaders of Tomorrow

By Mandisa Dlamini (Communications Assistant) and Phumula Mudau (Communications Intern)

youth.jpg

Youth Day is a world-wide event that honours youth's contribution to the advancement of society and promotes their involvement in forming the future. The 16 June 1976 protests in Soweto, where students marched against the Bantu Education Act and apartheid laws, is being celebrated for the 48th time this year. This day highlights the value of contributing to the development and wellbeing of the younger generation and serves as a reminder of their potential. This year's theme is "Actively advancing socioeconomic gains of our democracy". The commitment is to provide youth with the necessary tools, and resources to enable them to contribute significantly to society and to address critical problems such as unemployment, educational inequality, unfairness in society and insufficient medical care.

The Significance of Youth Day

Youth Day is very important because it honours the bravery and courage of young people who confronted injustice. It acts as a reminder of the influence youth activism has in transforming society and influencing the future. Youth Day highlights the value of funding young people's education, empowerment, and wellbeing by celebrating their contributions to social progress. It promotes a better and more inclusive tomorrow by motivating present and future generations to fight for justice, equality, and human rights. In addition to celebrating youth's vibrancy and potential, Youth Day offers a chance to consider the health and well-being of this generation.

Addressing Youth-Specific Health Challenges

The increase in human papillomavirus (HPV) infections among young women, in particular, in South Africa has drawn a lot of attention, as have initiatives to reduce the risk to health, such as cervical cancer prevention and treatment. If not properly treated, HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection, can cause cervical cancer. To reduce these dangers, South Africa has increased its health measures, especially for young girls. The inclusion of HPV vaccinations in the public health framework is one example of the proactive move taken by the South African government. The HPV vaccine campaign is intended to immunise children before become sexually active. Despite these initiatives, challenges still remain. The uptake of the HPV vaccine has been limited by socioeconomic inequality and restricted access to healthcare and there is still unequal coverage of cervical cancer screening, particularly in rural and disadvantaged areas. Partnerships with public health organisations and ongoing public health initiatives are essential to addressing these concerns. By raising knowledge of HPV and its risks and increasing vaccination rates, these efforts hope to increase participation in screening and vaccination campaigns. The Health Systems Trust also supports Cervical Cancer Prevention Action and Control.

Embracing Mental Health and Wellbeing

Youth present both potential and difficulties, but it's important to remember that mental health and wellbeing come first. Young brains can be negatively impacted by the demands of academic achievement, social expectations, and personal development. It is important to establish supportive environments that place a high priority on mental health awareness, and mental health treatment accessibility. Advancing the wellbeing of, and assisting young people on their path to emotional and psychological wellbeing on this Youth Day, is key.

On Youth Day let's show commitment to putting youth health and well-being first. We can guarantee that the upcoming generation not only survives but also leads healthier, happier lives by providing them with the information, tools, and assistance they require. While we acknowledge their potential and accomplishments, let us also acknowledge the critical role they play in creating a society that is stronger and more resilient.

 

Read More: Youth Health Africa

 

 

 


May 28
A Day in the life of the Health Systems Trust’s SyNCH Helpdesk Supervisor, Zinhle Mnguni

by Siyabonga Gema – HST Communications Officer

zinhle2.jpg

Meet Zinhle Mnguni, the Health Systems Trust's (HST's) SyNCH Helpdesk Supervisor, who says she draws her inspiration from witnessing other people triumph over adversity. Zinhle, who is no stranger to HST, recently took up a new role and we caught up with her to learn more about what this new chapter means to her and what she has up her sleeve as she navigates her HST career.

Please share your professional and educational background

I hold a Diploma in Information Technology and joined HST under Columbus, HST's ICT service provider, as a SyNCH ICT Technician from 2017 to 2019. In February 2021, I was appointed as a SyNCH Helpdesk Consultant supporting KwaZulu-Natal under Columbus. In April this year, I was appointed as SyNCH Helpdesk Supervisor.

What influenced you to join the health sector?

Helping others, making a difference in people's lives and contributing to improving the health outcomes of all people was a strong motivator for me to join the health sector. The government's initiative and policies aimed at improving healthcare outcomes and increasing access to healthcare also created an attractive environment for me.

How are you finding your new role?

As a SyNCH Helpdesk Supervisor, I am enjoying taking responsibility and getting an opportunity to mentor and lead a team. Although it comes with new challenges compared to my previous role, and my day to day work routine has changed a lot, I am open to growing and developing new skills.

How do you think technological advances benefit the health sector?

Technological advances have revolutionised the health sector in numerous ways, and I'm excited to share some of the benefits:

  • Monitored/Governed access to the health systems to protect patient level data.
  • Remote monitoring of patients.
  • Promotion of rational medicine use principles
  • Improved and fast communication between health facilities and their service providers.
  • Easy access to the reports that are available electronically to improve patient care.


What is most fulfilling about your job?

As a Helpdesk Supervisor, I have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on people's lives by resolving their issues and concerns. When I help someone resolve their issues, I get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing that I made a positive difference in their day.

I am also developing strong relationships with my team members and stakeholders. I get to understand their challenges, empathise with their frustrations, and build trust with them.

This job requires you to think critically and creatively to resolve complex issues. You must stay up-to-date with new developments and solutions, which can be engaging and stimulating.

What does your typical day at work look like?

Every day is different in this role when supervising seven provinces that are implementing SyNCH and there are always new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow.

From 8:00, I do my morning routine: checking emails; responding to urgent messages and escalating when necessary. I then prepare and organise team meetings to discuss priorities, goals, and ongoing issues or concerns. Part of my role entails tickets management where I monitor ticket updates and resolutions, escalate tickets to relevant stakeholders and provide team support and guidance as needed. Another aspect involves consolidating reports and analysis on a monthly and quarterly basis, and fostering ongoing collaboration through meetings to discuss SyNCH project issues and best practices.

What inspires you?

The personal experience of overcoming a challenge, learning a new skill or achieving a goal is my very powerful source of inspiration. Hearing about other people's experiences, struggles and triumphs can be incredibly inspiring.

How do you do away from work?

I am a very family orientated person. I spend most of my time with my family and my three beautiful kids.

What does the future hold for Zinhle?

I am willing to further develop my skills to stay competitive in the market by pursuing additional education or training in areas like project management, public health and data analytics.

 


May 27
Employee wellness is company wellness

​By Willemien Jansen (HST Copy and Content Editor)

wellness.jpg

Workers have been through a lot in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic created a work-from- home trend that, while it worked for some, increased isolation and made it more difficult for parents, for example, to balance their work lives and parental responsibilities. A worldwide survey done in 2020 and 2021 found that people experienced higher levels of stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression. These issues did not necessarily dissipate with the end of the pandemic. It is no wonder that workers are trying to strike a better work-life balance after the pandemic, and employers should help them to do so.

What is employee wellness?

Healthy employees lead to happy employees. Improved health leads to higher productivity, less time spent on sick leave and higher levels of motivation. According to the Department of Health, there are four pillars of employee wellness:

  1. Physical wellness
  2. Psycho-social wellness
  3. Organisational wellness
  4. Work-life balance


How can employers help staff achieve high levels of wellness?

The Health Systems Trust recently launched a series of wellness days that was successfully rolled out at the Midrand office. Employees could attend health screenings and listen to a series of talks on finance, diet and mental health. Wellness days like these go a long way to provide employees with education on their physical, financial and mental wellbeing. The company is also rolling out a hotline and suggestion/complaints box so that employees can report on various issues like bullying and other irregularities happening in the company. This transparency leads to better organisational wellness.

For the younger generations like Gen Z, work-life balance has become much more important than a big paycheck. Candidates will reject higher paying roles in favour of roles where they can achieve a better work-life balance. This generation places a higher value on a good work-life balance than settling for unhealthy work situations. They seek personal development, cherish candid conversations about mental health, and understand the significance of holistic fulfillment outside of the workplace. As this new generation comes up in the workforce, companies will be forced to rethink their mental wellness approaches.

Employees are increasingly looking for hybrid work environments that don't chain them to their desks for 8 hours a day, but allows them some freedom and flexibility to balance life and work. A study showed that 38% of organisations that participated indicated that more home/hybrid working has increased the organisation's productivity/efficiency. Only 13% of organisations indicated a decrease in productivity/efficiency.

More than pool tables and free coffee

Employee wellness is more than free coffee, fruit and fun relaxation areas. Wellbeing is not a one size fits all and evolves with your organisation. Initiatives like training and development, flexible work hours, social initiatives, company-wide meetings to build transparency, the effective use of sick days and mental health resources can all bolster productivity and create a healthier and more relaxed work environment.

For a myriad of mental health tools and resources visit Masiviwe or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group

 


May 24
Celebrating Africa Month: A Continent of Diversity and Growth

By Mandisa Dlamini (HST Communications Assistant)

Africa Day.jpg

The month of May is recognised as Africa month – a time when the continent of Africa commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This year's celebration reflects on the progress made by the OAU in enhancing the lives of the African population. The theme of the 10th edition of Africa Month is Celebrating 30 Years of Freedom: Building a Better Africa and a Better World

Africa Month is celebrated to honour the rich cultural legacy, diversity, and historical accomplishments of the African continent and is an opportunity to reflect on the continent's progress, challenges, and goals. In 2024, the focus includes a number of important health projects that will improve public health and wellbeing across Africa.  

The World Health Organization Africa Region has introduced a comprehensive plan of action and targeted programmes aimed at addressing health challenges in Africa over the period 2023 to 2030. These efforts prioritise tackling health issues like TB, cervical cancer via HPV vaccination, and enhancing mental health services. They also emphasise the importance of resilient health systems capable of responding to both existing and new health risks.

A major effort is the African Health Initiative funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Under this programme, sub-Saharan African healthcare systems are supported by the development of partnerships and the application of comprehensive models of integrated primary healthcare. It highlights local ownership of health solutions, continuous learning processes, and local ownership of health solutions. To ensure long-lasting improvements to health, this calls for co-operation between regional administrations, academic institutions, and international funders.

Leading the way in research, strategic assistance for the execution of key health programmes, and building health systems are the main areas of concentration for the Health Systems Trust (HST), an organisation supporting the South African public health sector. HST has been crucial to the development of the country's healthcare system as the following projects illustrate; the Cervical Cancer (CCPAC) Project is a three-year Cervical Cancer Prevention, Access, and Control project in the Zululand District funded by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It facilitates  access to early screening, diagnostic procedures, treatment, and palliative care services within the district. The DO ART Demonstration Project offers comprehensive screening services, initiates ART (Antiretroviral Therapy), and provides continuous community-based management for ART patients in the eThekwini South and Nongoma Sub-districts of KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation's goal is to make Africa healthier and more equitable in terms of health.

Africa Month also features activities designed to enhance the appreciation for arts and culture, indirectly benefiting mental health by fostering community unity and cultural pride. The celebration includes events that showcase the continent's rich cultural heritage.

The health related activities during Africa Month 2024 highlight a comprehensive approach to improving health outcomes, strengthening health systems and addressing specific diseases to promoting mental health and cultural well-being.

Read more on Africa Month.

 





May 21
World Malaria Day, 25 April 2024, “Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world”

​By Antoinette Stafford Cloete (Health Systems Trust Communications Manager)

mosquito.jpg

World Malaria Day was instituted at the World Health Assembly in 2007 and draws attention to the necessity of ongoing financial support as well as a genuine political commitment to the prevention and control of malaria.

Progress with regards to decreasing the incidence or prevalence of malaria with most cases (94%) found in the Africa region has been sub-optimal. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were approximately 608 000 deaths caused by malaria in 2022 and more than 249 million new cases. It is an astounding number for one geographical area. The WHO for the African Region argues that this threat to human life is fuelled by a brutal cycle of inequity and a long list of social determinants related to poverty. The most vulnerable in the region are impacted: newborns, children younger than five years of age, expectant mothers, internally displaced people, refugees and migrants all bear the brunt of the disease.

Rural areas are affected to a greater extent than urban settings due to a lack of ready access to health services, including mobile clinics. A lack of poor treatment and prevention roll out in the form of health promotion and health education efforts to assist people with better understanding the causes, effects and preventive measures is also a contributing factor. Many people are unable to obtain the necessary protective measures such as mosquito nets and repellent as a starting point. Non-governmental organisations like Goodbye Malaria, funded by the Global fund, attempts to close the gap that government cannot fill by running awareness programmes on malaria and making the preventive material mentioned more readily available for consumers under the banner "Save a life in your sleep". It is a community development effort to promote small business and job-creation efforts that aims to create employment around sorely needed life-saving products, saving lives and alleviating poverty in the process in South Africa, Eswatini and Mozambique.

Efforts to roll back malaria were already in place in 1998 when four of the biggest health orgnisations in the world, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), joined forces to launch a campaign to fight malaria. The programme, "Roll Back Malaria", sought to reduce the human suffering and economic losses due to one of the world's costliest diseases.

The then WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, said that, "Malaria is the number one health priority of people and leaders in affected communities and countries, but their voices have not been heard … The human suffering is unacceptable and so is the economic burden and impediment to progress. Africa and other regions with malaria are responding and we must answer their call".

Almost three decades have passed since that statement and too many lives are still being lost to malaria because levels of political commitment, private sector engagement (the exception would be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and much-needed community involvement are still not optimal.

For more information:

The Malaria Consortium

Speak Up Africa

 

 

 

 

 



1 - 10Next