IOM, USAID Launch Expanded HIV Prevention and Care Programme for Migrants and Host Communities in South Africa
IOM and USAID, with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are expanding to 2016 the Ripfumelo project addressing HIV vulnerability of farm workers in South Africa’s Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.
The US$ 7.1 million Ripfumelo II project, which will cover selected districts in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, aims to scale up HIV prevention and care interventions for traveling and migrant populations, including labour migrants, mobile workers and irregular migrants, and the communities that they interact with. Ripfumelo means ‘believe” in Tsonga.
Thousands of migrants flee political and economic turmoil in neighbouring countries to find a better life working on South African farms. But many are vulnerable to exploitation and have limited access to health care. Health risks include overcrowded living conditions and few recreational outlets, which increase their exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
More than 20,000 migrants have gained access to health services through the US$ 4.6 million Ripfumelo project since it started in 2009. The extension to 2016 will aim to reach more hard-to-reach migrant farm workers and new geographical areas, while accelerating TB and AIDS prevention, counselling and testing.
“The new project supports the Government of South Africa’s National Strategic Plan (NSP) to reduce HIV and TB incidence and mitigate related impact to achieve the ultimate goals of Zero New Infections,” says USAID Activity Manager Mathata Madibane.
The NSP identifies migrants as a key population to target with HIV, STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and TB programmes, due to their high risk of communicable diseases and challenges in accessing health services.
“Ripfumelo did good work in the commercial farming sector to provide comprehensive HIV& AIDS prevention and care services. But it will take our collective efforts to overcome this AIDS pandemic,” says Community Service Manager at Vhembe District Municipality Alex Nemakode.
“The Ripfumelo project is a strategic partnership with NGOs and government at all levels that facilitates access to health services and programmes, specifically HIV, STIs and TB prevention, care and support services. It addresses structural barriers to reduce vulnerability and generates strategic information for evidence-informed policy development and programming,” says IOM Migration Health Regional Coordinator and Acting Chief of Mission in South Africa Dr Erick Ventura.
“Although South Africa has inclusive policies and programs, implementation of those remains a challenge at local level. Ripfumelo II will contribute to bridging that gap between policy and practice. Over the past three years, USAID and PEPFAR have supported IOM to build extensive networks and collaboration with various stakeholders, including government, to ensure accessibility and availability of services and programmes to the hard-to-reach populations such as farm workers,” says Ms. Madibane.