Tebelepele Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) Center in Gaborone has officially launched a wellness clinic that will be offering integrated services to its clients.
These services include HIV testing and counseling, family planning services, HIV/AIDS prevention, post gender based violence services, STI screening and treatment, HIV care and treatment and non-communicable disease (NCD) screening.
Giving his welcome remarks in Gaborone yesterday, Tebelopele board chairperson Pius Mokgware said the integrated health services in Gaborone will improve how individuals living with HIV are linked to treatment and supported to continue treatment after initiation, reduce the time between HIV diagnosis and engagement in care and ART initiation and increase access to and demand for RH and HIV services among youth, men and key population (men who have sex with men and female sex workers).
“Today’s event marks the beginning of Tebelopele’s vision to provide integrated VCT. It is a vision that was conceived as far back as 2014, when the Tebelopele Board of Directors and management made the decision to re-strategize and enhance Tebelopele services to the community. This shift was borne out of a recognition that Tebelopele needed to move beyond HIV counseling and testing and support clients holistically, particularly in light of the fact that referrals to government based facilities were proving to be a challenge,” he pointed out.
He explained that individuals were not linking to services or the documentation was not available to confirm linkage. Mokgware added that their clients also pointed out that they would like to have all services related to HIV at the centre such as HIV counseling and testing plus ARV treatment.
Tebelopele Wellness Clinic is currently operating in two sites, that is Gaborone and Molepolole. They are expected to complement the services of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) by increasing access to health services particularly for adolescent girls and young women together with key populations identified in the National Strategic Framework documents as female sex workers, MSM and transgender.
“Through the FHI 360 Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) project we will be focusing on keeping adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) HIV negative; identifying undiagnosed men, women and children; ensuring linkage to care and treatment in Gaborone and Molepolole. Tebelopele implements the linkage project in six districts, one of which is Gaborone. The overall aim of the
However, Mokgware pointed out that they were currently only providing clinical services in Gaborone for key population, where they are working with MoHW on how best they could ensure that key population in other districts have access to prevention and treatment services as well. He added that they needed medical doctors, nurses and others who are willing to volunteer and support expansion of the integrated VCT to other parts of the country.
For his part, the Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Alfred Madigele said that marked a new chapter in Tebelopele story that started more than 17 years ago, when the organisation was established as collaboration between the Botswana Government and the United States Government and the United States Government to address HIV and AIDS, which at the time was one of the greatest threats to the nation’s survival.
“Tebelopele has not only become a household name for Botswana but also an integral part of our communities through its partnership with the ministry, the National AIDS Coordinating Agency and other partners. Since its establishment, it has been a force to reckon with as it has excelled in providing educational campaigns on HIV and AIDS, and in particular, voluntary HIV counseling and testing to individuals and couples,” he said.
He added that the centre was funded by the USAID through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) saying their integrated health service included HIV and STI screenings and treatment, family planning, screening and treatment, family planning, screening for non-communicable diseases and post-gender based violence services.
While the services that offered are for the general population, Madigele pointed out that Tebelopele staff had been trained to provide youth and key population friendly services as part of its scope of work under the FHI 360 projects. He added that as the world braces itself towards ending AIDS as a public health problem by 2030, it was imperative that they galvanize all resources at their disposal to ensure that they take the nation to a world without HIV.