Start of page

Article, 01.12.2014

The SDC-funded Newlands Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, has given Jacob M. – who is HIV positive – a new perspective. Today he helps other people infected with HIV so that they can benefit from the same support.

Jacob M meets a nurse at the Newlands Clinic.
Jacob M. is one of the 4,000 patients benefiting from regular medical care at the Newlands Clinic. © Swiss AIDS Care International

When Jacob M. talks about his life, he tells a story that is sadly common to all too many unfortunate people worldwide – childhood abuse, working in the fields at the age of 11, escape from the country to the capital city, unemployment... until the day his life changed once again. "I was involved with a woman who suddenly fell ill. It was only then that we found out she was HIV-positive. Shortly after that she died. I then started to suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea and lost a lot of weight."

Gradually, Jacob's mother and his relatives began to reject him. He decided to move to another part of Harare where a local organisation persuaded him to take an HIV test. The result was positive and Jacob began receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the Newlands Clinic. Established in 2004 by the Swiss doctor Ruedi Lüthy, the clinic has since received financial support from the SDC.

Medicine, prevention and psychosocial support

Like Jacob, more than 4,000 patients benefit from the medical assistance and equipment provided at the Newlands Clinic which is run by the Swiss AIDS Care International foundation. The treatment of HIV patients primarily consists in providing ART drugs but also involves prevention efforts and psychosocial support. "I wish all people in Zimbabwe could receive such care", says Jacob enthusiastically.

The overall approach of the Newlands Clinic meets the three key objectives of the international campaign launched by UNAIDS: to reduce AIDS-related mortality, to reduce the likelihood of new infections, and to fight discrimination against people with HIV. Newlands Clinic has mobile stations in the district where Jacob is living, where he has found the opportunity to get personally involved in the fight against the scourge of HIV and its consequences. "I work as a volunteer at the clinic to explain to people infected with HIV how important the therapy is – just as someone did to me.” A longer-term goal of this SDC-funded project is to train specialists in HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, particularly in the field of ARTs.

Decrease in the rate of prevalence

Since his diagnosis, Jacob has got married and lives with his wife and stepchild on the outskirts of Harare. "We are all HIV-positive, but we are doing well thanks to the treatment we get at the Newlands Clinic." Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries to have managed to significantly slow the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to have reduced HIV prevalence rates in the population from 25% to nearly 15%.

In addition to the Newlands Clinic, the SDC supports five projects in southern Africa that deal directly with the issue of HIV/AIDS. More generally, the SDC makes the strengthening of state health systems a priority and seeks to ensure that an HIV/AIDS component is incorporated in each of its projects. This in line with the SDC's multisectoral approach which requires reflecting on the role and impact of any involvement – in areas as diverse as food security, sanitation or education – on people infected with HIV. Finally, Switzerland also provides financial support to the WHO, UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and plays an active role in the strategic management of these institutions.

A medical laboratory technician talks to a nurse.
The SDC-funded project aims to train specialists in HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. © Pia Zanetti

Eradication of the epidemic by 2030

UNAIDS estimates that 1,5 million people died as a result of HIV/AIDS in 2013. The number of deaths has, however, fallen by 19% in the last three years. In sub-Saharan Africa today, 90% of patients infected with HIV are receiving ART. But it is estimated that more than half of the 35 million people suspected of being HIV-positive globally are unaware that they are infected. UNAIDS has set the year 2030 as the deadline to eradicate the epidemic. This means that by then, HIV/AIDS should no longer be considered as a threat to public health, the spread of the disease should be controlled, and its devastating effects reduced.

Additional Information

Last update 28.01.2022

  • FDFA Communication answers media queries Mondays to Fridays during office hours and operates a weekend emergency on-call service.

Contact

FDFA Communication

Federal Palace West
3003 Bern

Phone (for journalists only):
+41 58 460 55 55

Phone (for all other requests):
+41 58 462 31 53