05 June 2011

Squinting in the courtyard of a medical clinic in Khayelitsha, health-care worker Katherine Hilderbrand tries to remember the way things were here 12 years ago, before clinics could offer antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to people infected with HIV.

"We started with only one room in the clinic. The staff thought nobody with HIV would ever come, there was too much stigma. The long benches in the waiting room were empty, but individuals would show up privately. In those days, people would come in really, really sick and it was usually too late..."

But on Friday morning, Hilderbrand joined hundreds of health-care workers, patients, HIV/AIDS activists and community members in a cheerful march zigzagging through Khayelitsha to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the township's HIV treatment programme.

In 2001, the Ubuntu Clinic in Site B became the first primary health clinic in South Africa to provide ARV treatment after the international medical non-profit Doctors Without Borders (MSF) opened (it). Today it is the hallmark of Khayelitsha's successful HIV/AIDS programme...