With the country firmly in the grip of the second COVID-19 wave, the Department of Health recently partnered with non-profit company, Shout-It-Now, to use its technology-enabled buses to assist with the early detection of the virus to help curb its further spread in Ekurhuleni.
“The Ekurhuleni Health District embarked on a considered, aggressive COVID-19 screening and testing initiative to control the spread of the virus into Gauteng,” says Mr MT Magoro, Chief Director: Ekurhuleni Health District. “Roadblocks formed an important part of this strategy and in this instance, Shout-It-Now supported the District at one of the roadblocks we had set up, together with law enforcement, from 8-15 January. Testing for COVID-19 helped to identify and isolate infected individuals in order to prevent further community spread at a time when holiday makers were returning to the Ekurhuleni District and Gauteng Province.”
After COVID-19 tests were conducted, results were sent via SMS from the Department of Health within 48-72 hours.
According to the government’s dedicated COVID-19 website, to date 8 329 691 tests have been conducted, with 1 720 483 conducted between 1 January 2021 – 2 February 2021. In the Department of Health’s efforts to test motorists entering Gauteng, to try and contain the virus’ spread after the December holidays, they have increased their daily testing average by 112% since 1 January 2021.
The collaboration between the Gauteng Department of Health Ekurhuleni Health District Services and Shout-It-Now ensured that COVID-19 testing services were conducted in the comfort and privacy of the Shout-It-Now bus.
“Our buses are such a fundamental part of our service offering as they enable us to reach those communities who need help the most. By partnering with the Department of Health, we could use our mobility and technology to support their efforts at a time when healthcare facilitates are under pressure and at full capacity,” says Dr Albert Machinda, HIV expert, researcher and COO at Shout-It-Now.
Shout-It-Now, which is funded by PEPFAR (the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a South African non-profit company that provides free, innovative and integrated community based biomedical and behavioural HIV prevention services, gender-based violence (GBV) services, and sexual and reproductive health services to communities in Gauteng and the North West.
“Our highly trained and compassionate field staff worked hand in hand with their DoH colleagues to ensure that all people returning to the province were screened. Additionally, our staff, where appropriate, provided information on HIV and gender-based violence, both of which are exacerbated by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown,” says Machinda.
GBV and HIV in a pandemic
Based on projections from the United Nations, just six months of lockdowns around the world would add 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence, and for every three months the lockdowns continue, a further 15 million cases are expected. Sexual violence is a key driver of HIV infection, according to UNAIDS, and with GBV cases increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are likely to also see a surge in HIV infections.
During a pandemic, the vulnerable become more vulnerable, as women and girls are forced to stay at home. Job losses and school closures, reduced mobility and an enforced curfew, limited access to public health facilities and reduced access to courts and therefore justice, together with a breakdown of essential family and support networks, all contribute to what is being referred to as the “Shadow Pandemic” of violence against women and girls during COVID-19.
“The pandemic is a parallel battle for women and girls, who are simultaneously vulnerable to an increase in GBV and HIV. While countries around the world, including South Africa, battle COVID-19, it’s essential that we continue devoting resources to tackling the pandemic, together with fighting GBV and HIV. At Shout-It-Now, we are committed to creating awareness and supporting our clients through the range of services we offer in our Shout Model, which are designed to empower, educate and equip adolescent girls and young women to take control of their lives and make independent, informed decisions about their future,” says Machinda.
For more information, contact Shout-It-Now through its WhatsApp number: +27 10 020 6021, visit https://shoutitnow.org/ or speak to a call centre agent on: +27 10 020 6021.