Devoted to the fight against HIV and Aids

10 August 2010 - 09:16
By Sowetan

OVER the last five years Dr Ndilikazi Buhlungu, medical adviser at medical scheme administrator and managed care company Sechaba Medical Solutions, has given her heart to the war against HIV and Aids and has been leading a successful crusade in and outside South Africa.

Born and raised in the Transkei, Buhlungu completed her schooling in Umtata before pursuing her medical degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Early in her career she identified a passion for HIV care and completed a postgraduate degree in HIV management and occupational medicine at the University of Stellenbosch.

"I have a special interest in assisting people living with HIV and Aids, especially in rural areas, and have had the privilege of getting involved with international and local non-government organisations (NGOs) who share my passion," she says.

Buhlungu has pioneered HIV-Aids projects over the last five years in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Swaziland and Zambia. The projects include partnering small and large NGOs in these areas and assisting in educating people on the disease, promoting HIV testing and treating people who are infected.

"So often with projects in the past I have been unsure of the kind of response we would get but I have been pleasantly surprised each time," she says.

"In conducting a mass testing campaign we were sceptical about the response we would get from the people in the townships and rural areas, especially from men, and thought nobody would come. But they came and more and more people queued. Within one week we tested 30000 people."

She says a vital focus of the training component of the projects is to impart accurate information to the peer educators, which had previously been lacking, especially in the rural environments. She believes her greatest success to date has been demystifying the stigma and breaking the hold that the disease has on so many lives.

Having travelled extensively in southern Africa, she believes that, despite the high prevalence of HIV-Aids in SA, it still has resources that other countries do not have.

"To see lay people with no jobs taking the opportunity to become peer educators, becoming healthy and encouraging others; to see small hospices and organisations trying to help and having major successes, makes all the overtime hours worth it," she says.

Buhlungu is hoping to use her experience and skills to strengthen HIV programmes in medical schemes.