INTEGRATED SCHOOL HEALTH PROGRAM
Our mobile health units enable us to take our services directly to schools; the only locations in such dispersed communities where a large number of students can be reached cost-effectively in a single visit. In collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) Integrated School Health Program (ISHP), we attend the schools most in need of health services. From these units, since 2007, we provide the following five services:
- Health Screening: Through this service, health counselors screen and test adolescents for HIV; Screening is also provided for other STIs and for highly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.
- Treatment: A primary health care nurse follows up on all the students pre-screened by the counselors. Besides evaluating the health results the nurse handles any immediate treatment including confirmation of status of any student who tests positive for HIV on the initial screening test and determines whether antiretroviral therapy is required. Where further support is needed, the nurse makes referrals to the Department of Health services. One nurse can support the workload of 8 health counselors which makes the program very efficient and reduces cost.
- Education: Health Counselors provide the students with the basic facts about diseases such as HIV, TB and STIs, from how it is contracted and spread to use of anti-retroviral therapy. General health issues including nutrition, lifestyle and family planning are also addressed to give each adolescent the necessary information to improve his or her own well being.
- Counseling: Psychologists and social workers play a key role in the Mpilonhle mobile team. They are available to guide young people through the screening process. They support students affected by domestic violence, drug abuse, pregnancy or other problems common to adolescents.
- Peer Counseling Support (PALS): Mpilonhle provides training to both teachers and students to create a school-based team to support at-risk adolescents, particularly pregnant students and those who are victims of violence or abuse. The teachers are available as on-site resources providing continuous care through-out the school year. They are trained by Mpilonhle in counseling and adolescent health issues and have direct phone access to our professionals.
Over the years, we have also added several additional services that we offer through our mobile health programme. These include:
- Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC): It is now recognized that circumcision is highly effective in reducing the incidence of HIV infection. Since 2013, Mpilonhle conducts information sessions to all male students and, in collaboration with DOH circumcision is offered to all male learners who request it.
- Eye Clinics: Mpilonhle facilitates eye clinics for schools and the community through a partnership with One Sight Philanthropy. Optometrists and technicians provide free prescription glasses on site and expedite cases of cataracts or other eye problems through the DOH. To date more than 18,000 people have had vision screening and more than 5,000 have received prescription glasses.
- Support Group Camps:Through our field work, we had seen that many children with HIV, including the older ones, have not been told by their caregivers that they are HIV positive. Since February 2014, Mpilonhle currently provides integrated health, social and psychological counseling and support services to these children through support group day camps held on Mpilonhle’s premises.