International Nurses Day shines a light on Mpumalanga's nurses fighting HIV for community health equity

File image.

File image.

Published May 9, 2024


On International Nurses Day, celebrated on May 12 each year, the world honours the critical role of nurses with the theme “Our Nurses. Our Future. The Economic Power of Care.”

This year, South Africa’s attention is focused on the dedicated nurses from rural Mpumalanga who have committed their lives to stopping HIV from spreading in their region and to bring about health equality for everyone in their communities.

Nurses do much more than just take care of physical health, particularly when it comes to fighting HIV in rural areas.

According to Goodman Ntshangase, the acting district director of Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga for BroadReach Health Development, nurses often are the first people patients see and continue to be a constant source of care and support.

“In our communities, nurses are the main support of our health services,” Ntshangase points out.

Gert Sibande is one of the areas where BroadReach provides public health services, together with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Health (DoH).

For the last 17 years, their team of local nurses and health workers have been working closely with community members to improve their health and well-being.

Since 2018, the hard work of nurses in the Nkangala and Gert Sibande districts has shown incredible results. Starting with just 1,520 people on the HIV prevention drug PrEP, the number has soared to 30,094 in the past year, saving thousands of lives.

Leslie Marbury, a top official with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in southern Africa, praised the nurses' tireless work.

“We're so proud to stand with Mpumalanga's nurses and others across South Africa fighting HIV,” she said.

Marbury also emphasised how vital these nurses are, not just in treating people, but also the bid in strengthen the community's health system and to move towards an HIV-free future.

The fight against HIV has also seen a big win in preventing babies from being born with the virus. Thanks to the nurses and community effort, the number of babies born with HIV positive have been cut in half over five years.

Initially, 251 babies needed treatment, but now, with more moms taking their antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) daily, fewer babies are born with HIV.

Ntshangase highlighted the critical role nurses play.

“Over 20 years ago, nurses started administering ARVs because there weren't enough doctors. This was a huge step forward for those living with HIV,” he explained.

“This is the largest programme in the world. This is a great example of how the nurse’s role within a programme can have such a great impact on the community.”

In Mpumalanga, three remarkable nurses are making a difference, led by Dipuo Makofane from the Nkangala District. Inspired by her late father, a nurse whose memory she only knows through stories, Makofane always dreamed of following in his footsteps.

Despite never knowing him personally, she believes his spirit and dedication to nursing live on in her.

As a nurse, Makofane has become a trusted figure in her community, respected for her commitment to patient confidentiality and service to those most in need. She sees herself as a catalyst for positive change, drawing strength from her father's legacy to make a significant impact.

In Mpumalanga's Gert Sibande District, Ntando Godfrey Nkosi, a dedicated nurse explained that nursing is more than a job.

For him, it's a blend of science and kindness that allows him to connect deeply with his community and improve relationships.

Despite the demanding nature of nursing, which can be physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, Nkosi finds it exceptionally rewarding.

He recounted a heart-warming story about a pregnant woman who tested HIV positive for the first time. After spending an hour counselling her, despite the impatience of others waiting, she began antiretroviral therapy that very day.

Ten months later, she named her HIV-negative baby “Ntando” in his honour. For Nkosi, such experiences underscore the importance of his role in safeguarding the futures of young South Africans and empowering individuals to take control of their health.

“To my fellow nurses, keep up the good work and happy Nurses Day!”

In his own words, Bongani Sindane, a dedicated nurse, shares the deep satisfaction he finds in caring for others, a passion ignited by his upbringing in an orphanage.

“Becoming a nurse allowed me to fulfil a lifelong dream of helping those in need,” Sindane explains.

His commitment to nursing is not just about medical care; it's about making a real difference in patients' lives through kindness, respect and support, especially for those less privileged.

Sindane's nursing journey has opened new doors for him, leading to degrees in Compliance Management and Labour Law. But it’s his specialisation in HIV/TB management that truly captures his heart.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing your care has helped someone,” Sindane explained.

Sindane goes beyond his nursing duties, also coaching and supporting health staff in the area to make sure health centres follow important health rules and address both medical and non-medical problems.

He focuses on the United Nations' ambitious goal for battling HIV and TB, known as the 95-95-95 target.

This goal aims for nearly all people living with HIV to know their status, receive ongoing treatment, and manage the virus effectively.