I have volunteered for CHIVA Africa since 2005 and have seen many changes take place with the rollout of antiretrovirals (ARVs) in KwaZulu Natal (KZN). When I compare my early visits in 2005 with my current trips, the growth and impact of the programme are highly visible and new challenges arise all the time.
The noticeable change in the confidence, knowledge, and skills of the local staff over the past five years have been amazing. In KZN the focus on adolescents is a major step forward and was not at all anticipated in 2005. Now, with the rollout of adolescent workshops, staff are developing their skills and are able to support a generation of HIV positive children who are living into their teenage years.
The model of CHIVA Africa is now being replicated in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces, and much of the learning that has been gained from KZN can be applied in these areas. I have spent time in both KZN and the Eastern Cape, and it is apparent that CHIVA Africa still needs to support healthcare workers and work alongside non-governmental organisations.
And by volunteering for CHIVA Africa over the years I have gained invaluable experience and knowledge. Having spent time working in extreme scenarios ranging from rural clinics to city hospitals I have faced enormous challenges. Spending time in a remote rural setting I have seen the effects of advanced HIV disease and malnutrition that are not seen in the UK. This puts how we manage HIV in the UK in a totally different light – access to drugs, clinicians, food, and social services.
I learn from each visit and gain new knowledge, not just about HIV but about adolescents, cultural differences and diversity, and the challenges of working in a developing country. It’s amazing to see the impact CHIVA Africa has had over the years. But for me, one of the most amazing things is that in a few years time, South Africa will have more in-depth knowledge and understanding of children and adolescents living with HIV than we do in the UK.
Jason Warriner is the current clinical director for the Terence Higgins Trust. He has over 10 years’ HIV nursing experience and has been volunteering for CHIVA Africa since 2005.