The Wellness Center for Health Workers (WCFHW) is a nurse run clinic in Manzini that was started in September of 2006 by Masitsela Mhlanga and Muzi Dlamini (current director). Two members of our group will be working with the clinic most days we are here. The clinic aims to provide care every year for approximately 2,000 of the 5,000 health care workers (HCW) in the Kindgom of Swaziland. Each HCW is allowed to enroll up to four other people for free health care. They are encouraged to choose dependents or other family members, those whose illness would directly negatively impact them.
The clinic provides a full range of primary care services, including HIV/AIDS care and anti-retroviral therapy (ART), and refers out to local hospitals for acute situations. They are working to open a tuberculosis (TB) clinic as well. The center also has a mobile van that visits Swazi communities five days a week. The van is staffed by a social worker/counselor and a nurse. They conduct group sessions, provide HIV counseling, dispense medications and give home care to those too sick to travel to the clinic. Home care visits are accompanied by fresh vegetables from the garden at the Wellness Center.
In addition to the HCW care, the clinic partners with the local chapter of Mothers 2 Mothers (M2M). This organization was founded in South Africa; its goal is to reduce HIV transmission from mother to child and to support HIV + mothers during and after their pregnancy. It recruits local HIV + women to be mentors to other pregnant HIV+ women in the community. M2M provides them with health care services, conducts monthly educational sessions and provides a forum for direct women to women support. HIV still carries significant stigma in the Swazi community and the organization seeks to reduce that stigma via formation of groups of women facing the same challenges.
Patty and I had the opportunity to spend Tuesday with Choto, the social worker on the outreach van, traveling to a town called Pigg’s Peak in the northern Hho Hho district. Highlights from the 1.5 hour drive included beautiful vistas over the mountains into South Africa and bridge with a sign “beware of hippos”. We also encountered many cows in the road, a common sight in Swazi as they are referred to as Swazi traffic lights!
At the Pigg’s Peak hospital we were able to observe Choto conduct a group session with eight mentors on the topic of self-esteem and self-actualization. These may seem like ephemeral topics but they are critical to supporting the women to make their own decisions in a male dominated Swazi culture. The Mothers 2 Mothers group is making powerful changes to support women to be tested, get treatment and provide treatment for their babies. While we are witness to many challenges in Swaziland, we are encouraged by the changes local groups such as this one are making.
For more information about Mothers 2 Mothers please visit: m2m.org