Doctor's mission to help HIV patients
By Nangamso Mabindla
26 February 2004
EAST London residents living with HIV/Aids received a much-needed boost with the recent launch of the Ikwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre.
The bright and airy centre will provide basic health care to about 150 local residents living with HIV and will also offer counselling services and home-from-home type support from volunteers.
At the launch, Nomsa Jajula, the Eastern Cape MEC for Education and chairperson of the Eastern Cape HIV/Aids Council, announced a donation of R40 000 to the centre.
The Ikwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre, based in the East London suburb of Southernwood, is the initiative of medical doctor Nonkosi Ngumbela-Tchoundou, who saw an urgent need to provide care and support to local residents. "When I saw the heartbreaking plight of people suffering from this disease, I couldn't just stand and watch - I had to do something," she said.
Ngumbela-Tchoundou teamed up with the community, other doctors and volunteers. "When we started out, we had a few people visiting the centre but it has since grown. We are looking to devote more of our time to assisting our people."
The centre has four doctors, including Ngumbela-Tchoundou, and 40 volunteers.
The team at the Ikwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre focuses on helping those living with HIV/Aids through improving nutrition, supplying patients and their families with proper information and giving patients access to various resources and medicine.
The seven-roomed centre includes a waiting room, a dispensary and three consulting rooms. There is a vegetable garden at the back of the centre.
One person who has benefited from Ngumbela-Tchoundou's care is Asanda Veni, who was invited to speak at the opening of the centre.
Veni told the audience that when she discovered she was HIV-positive, she thought it was the end of the world.
The situation got worse, especially when she started having hallucinations and, at a later stage, diarrhoea.
"I was then introduced to Dr Ngumbela-Tchoundou who, without charging, helped me treat the disease. That is what keeps me going - people like her and my mother who have been very supportive," said Veni.
She thanked the other doctors at the centre for devoting their time to helping HIV-positive people.
"These doctors take time off from their own practices and volunteer to help us. This is indeed love in action."
Moved by Veni's experience, Jajula said that South Africa needed more people who were not shy to share their experiences.
"We will not defeat the disease by just standing there and doing nothing. This is time for action. We need to fight the disease to the best of our ability."
However, Jajula also warned people not to think that HIV/Aids treatment could end the disease.
"Treatments are just there to assist people resist the disease. For Aids to be defeated, people need to take Aids education very seriously," she warned, adding that people should start taking life more seriously.
Jajula said centres like Ikwezi Lokusa could be used to encourage people to go for testing, and for public education and awareness and outreach education.
"Together, we show our solidarity in the HIV/Aids battle."
Ngumbela-Tchoundou thanked the Canadian Development Agency, Johnson & Johnson, the provincial government and businessman Mthetheleli Ngumbela for making her dream a reality.