Dear Topsy Supporters,
I am happy to bring to you this latest report from the field. I would like to tell you about one of the important projects that we run through our free Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care Clinic. It is the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) project.
The transmission of HIV from mother to child is a facet of this epidemic that has received a lot of international attention – both because the prevalence of mother to child transmission has been worryingly high in some regions (particularly Southern Africa) and secondly because there are highly effective medicines and treatment protocols available to ensure the HIV negative status of the child.
At the Topsy Foundation Clinic we employ the best practice in prevention of transmission by using an end-to-end process to take the mother and child through all stages from conception, through pregnancy and the birth to feeding. When this protocol is followed, with the assistance of the medical and social work professionals at our Clinic, then success is made possible. Throughout the time that we have had this project in place, we have had great successes, and in each case where the mother complied with the process, the child was born free of HIV.
Before the introduction of treatment and methods to prevent mother to child transmission there was a very high incidence rate of infection from mother to child internationally – up to 40%. Over time, with treatment this has dropped to as low as 2.8%. (South African Medical Journal, Vol 102, 2012.)
The national rate of infant exposure to HIV in South Africa is 32%. However, with the availability of treatment at clinics like Topsy, the national weighted prevalence of HIV infection amongst infants in South Africa is 1.5% - with the 2 highest rates of infection being in 2 provinces: Mpumalanga (3%) and Free State (2.4%). It is precisely because these 2 provinces are deeply affected by the impact of HIV and AIDS that Topsy has chosen to focus our efforts here. (South African Department of Health).
It is our policy to offer treatment and support to all of our patients who may be pregnant and to induct them into our PMTCT programme (which like our other services is free of charge). This is highly important, given that in our provinces only +- 56% of known HIV positive mothers are able to access this treatment.
We continue to offer this treatment and guidance to HIV positive mothers on preventing transmission to their child, throughout the pregnancy and thereafter.
We deeply value your support in helping us to do this.
Thank you for all that you have given that has made this possible.
Thank you for taking the time to enjoy finding out more about the organisation that you choose to support. We are glad to have the chance to show you the results of your amazing support.
Today I would like to share with you a perspective on healing, as it comes from family, friends and caring fieldworkers. I have a real life story for you from one of our patients, (followed by some words from her Topsy fieldworker who continues to help her through these challenging times)
Enjoy this story:
“I would like to thank Topsy Clinic for their help and support:
I became sick some time ago and as time went by I was getting worse and weak.
A neighbour friend who was working at Topsy advised me to go to Topsy Clinic because many people have gotten better and well there. I came to Topsy Clinic early this year, I was very weak, Topsy Health Workers came to visit me to assist and counsel me I just looked at them and it was difficult to talk back.
My aunt who stays two houses from mine took me to stay with her and they came to motivate us and advise her when she needed. I was weak, losing weight and had no appetite, they gave me nutritional juice and porridge powder to feed at home, thank God I could tolerate that.
My aunt was so patient and did not allow me to stay sleeping during the day. My neighbour friend would come to look after me at my aunt’s house while she was at work, and Topsy Health Workers would come in the day and encourage us saying I will be better/well.
I am now very much better can stand for a longer time preparing food, I have moved back to my home slowly but surely - trying to do for myself, as my brother who stays with me is at work, only coming home on weekends.
These words are so true and real, and I am sure you can feel her heartfelt gratitude to everyone who makes this possible – that includes you, our wonderful supporter.
And now a few thoughts from her Topsy fieldworker:
“I met this lady when her neighbour friend brought her to Topsy. We have been going to visit her for motivation and counselling. Sometimes when talking to her she was not responding but just stared at us. Last week when I came to the house and after my greeting she responded, oohh I was so emotional and even cried. I was so thankful.”
Isn’t it a wonderful difference that these healing hands can make.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for supporting.
Dear Topsy Supporters, The other day I was asked to define what Topsy's purpose is. Not our goal or mission statement - but our purpose. This is the answer that I gave, "The main purpose of the Topsy Foundation is to empower impoverished rural communities in South Africa who are impacted by HIV and AIDS, so that future generations, and young people in particular can flourish and be productive participants in society." This seemed to sum things up perfectly. But perhaps for an even better explanation, here is a directly translated letter from one of our beneficiaries. "I, started feeling sick on the 29 January 2008. I got helped at Topsy. I did not have an appetite, could not walk and was feeling very weak - having no strength, no hope. I tested HIV positive and was also diagnosed with TB which was news to me. My CD4 count result was very low counting at 10 cells then. I started attending at the Topsy Foundation Clinic, Grootvlei, and took treatment for Tuberculosis until it was cured. I also have to take ARVs. It was tough /difficult / a challenge but I accepted my conditions and I am taking antiretroviral therapy everyday for the rest of my life. To accept my condition, I told myself I am not the only one who has this disease HIV. I am getting well and I am fine. I am staying happily with my family. What I can say is "THANK YOU" to the Topsy team for your care in assisting me and others. I would like to motivate people who are still in denial that "LIFE COMES ONCE TO PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, THEY MUST SEEK HELP, COME TO TOPSY AND THEY WILL BE HELPED". Thank you, I hope that you found this letter as inspiring and motivating as we did. It gives us great encouragement to see the results of the work that you support and fund. So thank you deeply and sincerely for your support and funding. It is genuinely life-saving. Warm Regards Helen MacKenzie Communications Manager
Earlier this year, as part of my field visits to GlobalGiving projects in South Africa, I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the Topsy Foundation.
The Clinic: A Community Sanctuary
When I stepped out of the car, I remember thinking instantly that the atmosphere felt very different from other clinics I had visited (i.e. busy, harried, over-crowded); the Topsy clinic, in contrast, was located on very spacious grounds, complete with a parking lot, beautiful, tall trees, and patches of green grass on which a group of women and children were socializing. It was lunchtime during my visit, so groups of people were in line to get their sandwiches and drinks. I learned that Topsy feeds all their patients so that they can take their medication, a great incentive for people (who can't always afford to eat regularly) to keep coming back. At the clinic, I spoke with a few doctors and pharmacists, who were proud to show me the stock of medicine behind the counter; apparently, South Africa's government has recognized Topsy's work by making them a distribution hub for HIV/AIDs medication, which is great news for Topsy's patients. They get to visit a clinic that is well-resourced and supported.
Fostering a Women's Social Enterprise
Topsy also provides economic empowerment opportunities for women. It was a treat to get to visit Topsy's skill-training center where they employ women in bead-making and sewing. Here, I learned that the women who work at the skill-training center are in charge of fulfilling custom orders from Topsy's patrons (e.g. conferences who prefer to give their attendees hand-crafts vs. USB drives, for instance). All the women I met seemed very happy and eager to show me the designs and crafts they were working on, including tote handbags and an adorable line of dolls for kids.
More Than Home Visits: Supporting Families Through Loss
Though the clinic is in a remote area, the communities that Topsy serves are even further away. And so Topsy owns a charter of buses that they use to pick up their patients from their homes every day. I got on one of the buses, and we went into the communities, where I met with the social workers whose job it is to check on people who have been diagnosed. Additionally, they also hand out food parcels to really impoverished families (many of whom have lost their primary caretaker due to HIV/AIDS).
I met a woman who was caring for five orphaned children (none of who are her own). She's in her 70s. She hasn't been able to locate any of the documents that the govt needs to process support for the five children that she's been caring for, so she relies on Topsy's program for basic needs. In the case of orphan children, the government actually gives some monetary support to grandmothers or other caregivers who care for them after their parents have passed. So Topsy helps caregivers, such as the old woman I met, through the legal process. Thus, while she and the five children are awaiting approval for government support, Topsy's food parcels are literally saving their lives.
Gardens of Hope
Finally, I visited a few vegetable gardens in the township as well. Another arm of Topsy's comprehensive HIV/AIDS care is equipping families to feed themselves and sell vegetables. Amidst the dusty grounds and dulled brick of township living, I saw beautiful, vibrant patches of green. "Spring onions, carrots, bitter leaf, cabbage..." an old woman told us, proudly. It would be a great harvest for her family -- including herself and three adopted children, who'd been orphaned by AIDs. Despite the circumstances, looking at that patch of garden, and the pride in that woman's eyes as she proclaimed that her garden was the best in the village, I felt hope.
Thank you so much to Helen McKenzie and the rest of the on-site staff for organizing such an educational, eye-opening, inspiring visit, and for giving Topsy -- and the communities it serves-- so much of your hearts.
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