HIV rates as ‘high as 75%’ in Blikkiesdorp
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
HIV and Aids rates could be as high as 75% among residents in Blikkiesdorp, believe community health workers who live there.
Blikkiesdorp, officially known as the Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area, is in Delft.
Residents, evicted from elsewhere by city officials, include locals on government housing waiting lists and even refugees from Somalia.
Gerald Flagg, originally from Elsies River, has lived in Blikkiesdorp since 2007. He and another community healthcare worker regularly conduct HIV tests as part of their duties with local NGO Hope Cape Town.
“We have about 13,000 people who live here. The health conditions are terrible. About 40 people use one toilet and one tap,” said Flagg.
“We have a mobile clinic and people can have HIV tests here. We have an HIV (infection) rate of almost 75%. We have people who die of Aids. We talk to families and we know that people are dying of Aids.”
Flagg said he also encouraged HIV-positive patients to “tell their partners”.
Desiree Julies, 41, originally from Ravensmead, is HIV-positive and lives with her nearly blind partner Joseph Isaacs. On a rainy day, in their metal container home, Julies was coughing in bed while Isaacs was cooking potatoes.
Julies said: “I’ve been HIV positive for nine years. I was recently in hospital. The doctors can’t do anything for my lungs anymore.”
Isaacs said health conditions in Blikkiesdorp meant they had to be cautious about keeping Julies safe.
“She can’t walk or really do anything. You can pick up TB easily over here. So for her, who is sick, she shouldn’t be here,” he said.
William West, who has lived in Blikkiesdorp for the last seven years, said drugs and crime were likely driving HIV infections.
“We have a high rate of drugs and crime in this place. There are a lot of young girls who are prostitutes. There are houses that are used for prostitution,” said West.
“Kids are addicted to Tik. While you sleep you can hear them running around at night. You hear gunshots. It’s frightening at times.”
Pauline Jooste, a senior nurse with Hope Cape Town, said they did not have official statistics though indicating Flagg’s claims.
She confirmed: “HIV and TB rates are high in Blikkiesdorp, but we do not have any statistics to prove it. Health concerns are definitely TB, because of overcrowding. Drug abuse is also a big problem.”
Jooste said their community health workers in Blikkiesdorp were assisting HIV and TB patients to continue their medication.
Councillor Benedicta Van Minnen, the city’s mayoral committee member for health, did not have HIV or TB statistics for Blikkiesdorp specifically.
“The number of patients tested from July 2013 to May 2014 at Delft clinic is 3 084, with 8% testing positive,” she said.
“For Delft South Clinic, 2,234 patients were tested, with 11% testing positive. These totals are not for residents of Delft only, as these two sites service other areas as well.”
(An edited version of this article was published in Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 7 July 2014.)