Act against Aids

Annual Report: Diverse approaches to successful treatment

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Newlands Clinic has been able to provide its patients with uninterrupted medical treatment and comprehensive care throughout 2021. With great success: never have there been more patients with a suppressed viral load.

We measure the success of HIV treatment at Newlands Clinic based on three indicators: the suppressed viral load, the patients lost to follow-up, and the mortality rate. The virus could no longer be detected in the blood of more than 92 % of patients who had been in therapy for at least six months. This is the highest suppression rate in the history of the clinic. For adults the figure is over 94 %, which is even more gratifying; at 85 % it is lower for children and adolescents. Altogether, 58 patients – around 0.8 % – were lost to follow-up. Thanks to our close, comprehensive care we were able to stop many patients from discontinuing treatment. Last year 89 patients (1.2 %) died, most of them from cancer.

Cancer screening an important part of HIV therapy
People with HIV have an elevated risk of cancer. For this reason, we do regular preventive screening. Last year the Newlands Clinic medical team diagnosed 116 cases of cancer and organised specialist therapies for those affect-ed. This was no easy endeavour, especially given that Zimbabwe’s healthcare system was again weakened by shortages of staff and resources. This is also the reason why many people with advanced stages of disease went to Newlands Clinic for help as a last resort. We were able to help some of these patients and admit them to our programme. Newlands Clinic now has 7,249 patients, 246 more than the previous year. Almost two-thirds of our cohort are female, reflecting among other things our focus on the advancement of women.

Sustained support for women and their families
More than half of our female patients are infected with the human papillomavirus and are at high risk of contracting cervical cancer. At our Women’s Health Centre we offer them specific medical help. Of the 2,789 women we screened for cervical cancer, 143 needed treatment for precancerous conditions, which we were able to administer at the Women’s Health Centre. Four women were unfortunately diagnosed with cancer. Besides cancer screening, we treated 262 patients for sexually transmitted diseases, also offering their partners treatment. Most infections were detected in the course of routine examinations of symptom-free women. We were able to advise 744 patients on family planning. Almost 200 healthy babies were given HIV prophylaxis for as long as they were breastfed by their HIV-positive mothers.

Psychological help an important pillar
The coronavirus pandemic has posed major challenges for our patients. More than 850 people have entered psychological help during 2021. In addition to coronavirus, the reasons for psychotherapy also included therapy adherence, family problems, and depression. Newlands Clinic is a place of trust for patients, and they’re thankful to have someone to listen. We offered personal consultations at the clinic, conducted about 200 supporting phone calls, and made almost 300 home visits. We supported patients to enable them to regain their courage and adhere to HIV therapy. In addition to psychological problems, hunger and cold were a feature of many people’s day-to-day lives. During the winter Newlands Clinic distributed woollen blankets. Spread over the year, more than 1,000 families in need relied on our food support.