The Garden Route, known to many as a tourist destination attracting millions of people from all over the world and famous for its magnificent golf courses, is also one of the regions hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic in South Africa.
With infection levels currently between 12% to 16% in the region and constantly rising, the area may soon be faced with a stagnant workforce likely to cripple the tourism economy.
The Isisombululo Programme (meaning solution), funded by Dr Hasso Plattner, founder of the German software company, SAP, and owner of the Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estate in George, aims to do something about this.
It has created a partnership between two of the premier institutions in HIV/AIDS research and programme implementation, namely the Universities of Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal and the Department of Health in the Western Cape.
The Plattner Family, who donated R48-million towards the development of a health promotion and disease prevention and treatment programme in the Eden District, are also directly involved in macro-management through their daughter, Kristina Plattner, who serves on the programme's steering committee.
The overall objective is to grow capacity within the health system in the area in order to support a number of HIV/AIDS and TB-related initiatives, in relation to a full antiretroviral (ARV) roll-out by the provincial government.
One of the main focus areas is the building of social capital through non-governmental organisations. Thus, the programme has managed to fund various organisations in the area, with the Knysna/Sedgefield Hospice being one of them.
The programme concentrates its efforts in the areas of George, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay and Oudtshoorn, while working closely with the Department of Health, concentrating on the scaling of the antiretroviral roll-out in the Southern Cape, as well as on capacity building in non-governmental organisations in the area.
To speed up service delivery in the area the programme has employed two full-time programme managers, namely Brett Utian and Nontombi Jubeju, as well as a part-time medical specialist, Dr Terence Marshall, of the Department of Health.
The programme also makes use of reference groups from each academic institution. These are groups of scientists who are offering their expertise for institutional-based projects.
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