Lifeline Pietermaritzburg has provided a 24-hour telephone counseling and support service on it’s Crisis Line since February1972. It has a proud record of serving the Umgungundlovu District since that date. In 2006 we expanded to service the Sisonke area more effectively and we began to enter the Amajuba area in 2008. During this time we have assisted many thousands of people, both Zulu and English-speaking, to deal with a variety of traumatic events.
The prime aim of a LifeLine center is to provide emotional wellness to the community at large. This is done through individual counseling and community group interventions. A Lifeline is able to respond to local gaps in service and to the particular needs of a community. Once there is sufficient development of other service providers we take pride in passing on our learning’s and devoting our energies to new and unexplored gaps.
Over the past decade LifeLine as put considerable effort into the prevention of problems, developing Life Skills other educational inputs on rape, domestic violence, HIV, child abuse, conflict management and others.
In addition to our Crisis Line function, we have broadened the range of activities to include the local Rape Crisis Centre, providing survivors with specialist care. We offer trauma debriefing for victims who have been involved in a variety of violent situations such as robberies, common assault and domestic violence. We have facilitated the creation of an HIV/AIDS Information Data Base in partnership with the Municipality, and also being called in by a cross-section of users to address many training and counseling issues and needs.
LifeLine currently is involved in a large pre-risk HIV counseling and testing project in 14 senior schools in the peri-urban areas of Pietermaritzburg.. As such LifeLine opened the first non-medical VCT site in June 2001.
Pietermaritzburg was the first LifeLine Centre in South Africa to provide online counseling on a website at www.lifeonline.co.za Once again this work was developed at the local centre with grateful thanks to the Samaritans in the UK
Our HIV work brought us in contact with large numbers of vulnerable children, infected and affected by the virus which is currently devastating our country. We have developed the capacity to do play therapy with young children which have lost their relatives to the virus.
HIV/AIDS is a major concern in our communities, as people are getting ill, which in return increases family’s expenses and decreases their ability to continue working and take care of themselves and their families.
LifeLine addresses HIV in two different ways. The first one is by offering different activities in order to prevent infection with HIV. The second one is to assist people living with HIV (PLWHIV) to live a healthy and long life.
As part of prevention activities LifeLine conducts HIV Prevention Education and Sexual Reproductive Health dialogues in 13 High Schools in uMgungundlovu at this point, equipping and encouraging learners to take informed decisions in life. All learners that become part of our programme are encouraged to know their status and test for HIV and males are further encouraged to undergo medical male circumcision (MMC) as a preventative measure.
LifeLine further puts a special focus in its programmes on teenage pregnancy, since the chances of young teenage girls to become infected is significantly higher than for anyone else. In South Africa 2363 young women get infected with HIV every week, and this often goes together with low economical income, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, school drop-out and many other disadvantages. LifeLine offers comprehensive programmes in school specifically for teenage girls and orphans and vulnerable children in order to assist holistically and eventually reduce the infection rate of HIV.
LifeLine has adopted the 90-90-90 strategy that was taken on by the South African Government, whereby the aim is that 90% of the population has tested for HIV and is aware of their status; that 90% of the people living with HIV and eligible to treatment, has accessed ART; and that 90% of the people on treatment has a suppressed viral load. In order to achieve this vision LifeLine encourages all its clients to know their status and test for HIV. HIV is offered at our office as well as in the communities, next to schools and on awareness campaigns. LifeLine also offers HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) upon request to companies, organisations, on events etc. accompanied by a motivational talk providing information on HIV.
As part of encouraging HIV positive people to live a healthy and long life, LifeLine has a professional nurse employed at LifeLine who offers CD4. The results are received within a week and all clients are followed-up on telephonically. Depending on the CD4-cell count all clients are encouraged to return for another CD4 count after the respective period and to access treatment as soon as they become eligible in order to extend their life expectancies.
Clients that are struggling to cope with and to accept their status; clients that are not ready to disclose their status or that need any other form of emotional and informational assistance receive on-going counselling.
With all services offered by LifeLine we follow the latest guidelines as set by government. This means that currently all HIV positive clients that fall within the following criteria are referred for ART to their nearest clinic:
- All pregnant and breastfeeding women irrespective of the CD4 cell count
- All clients with a CD4 cell-count below 500
- All children below the age of 5 years irrespective of the CD4 cell count
Due to the high burden of TB in the country and a co-infection rate of 60% all clients testing HIV+ with LifeLine are referred for clinical TB diagnosis.