Who or what is CHAPS? More than just a clever acronym, the Centre for HIV-AIDS Prevention Studies has been active since 2010, in providing high calibre medical care, including Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) and HIV Testing (HTS). VMMC has been proven to reduce the transmission of HIV by up to 60%, and since 2010 CHAPS has successfully performed over 750 000 circumcisions in support of country goals. CHAPS is one of the first organizations to develop and implement comprehensive and accessible training on both VMMC and HTS. CHAPS supports the training of clinical cadres at University level, and is the training partner for the National Department of Health and the University of Pretoria on male circumcision. To support the training, CHAPS has created a sophisticated, realistic penile model to use in VMMC training, which assists in improving the quality of procedures performed. The only of its kind in Africa, the penile model enables safe practice with inner and outer foreskins and is able to hold sutures as well.
Why is this important, and why CHAPS, you may ask? From the mid-year report provided by Statistics SA, there is approximately 19% of the entire South African population living with HIV. This means over 7.8 million people infected, and places South Africa as the country with the largest HIV population in the world. Approximately 1 in every 5 women of reproductive age is HIV positive, and there is limited access to ‘hard to reach’ populations such as sex workers and transgender persons. This further highlights the need for a defined, targeted approach to HIV testing in communities made up of the most affected population groups. One of CHAPS main objectives is to implement comprehensive HIV programmes that contribute to ensuring that South Africa is able to meet the UNAIDS global 95-95-95 target by 2030. This means ensuring that all the clients that have been tested, whether negative or positive, are connected to prevention services such as the offering of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to our negative testing clients and Antiretroviral Treatments (ARV) for our positive testing clients. A crucial element in creating an HIV free generation for the future, is ensuring every single HIV positive testing client is provided ARV treatment as soon as possible, and all HIV negative clients remain negative by prescribing and ensuring they maintain their course of PrEP. HIV Testing Services are still critical in the fight against the spread of HIV and remain the gateway in which clients can access those services, which will ensure they are protected against the spread of HIV.
Through use of mobile clinics and door-to-door services, CHAPS brings the treatment and testing to the community, which not only benefits the local population, but also ensures that no person is left without the option of receiving treatment or testing, no matter their mobility, or economic status.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for additional training and testing services became apparent, and CHAPS came to the fore by instituting a mobile COVID-19 testing service. CHAPS deployed clinical teams in mobile units across hotspot areas in KwaZulu-Natal to support the government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across informal settlements and within communities where social distancing was not possible. CHAPS also provides continuous testing support for corporate and private clients on a home-based service platform. Tests are conducted within the comfort of your home or the convenience of your hotel or office. By using independent and certified laboratories to process the tests, results are available within 12 to 24 hours. CHAPS also supported the Gauteng Department of Health in the establishment and management of high-quality quarantine sites to service the port of OR Tambo for international travellers. Through this partnership, CHAPS managed more than 300 passengers from re-patriation flights back to South Africa.
In partnership with Rand Merchant Bank, CHAPS has also developed a comprehensive COVID-19 training programme that has been rolled out to Care Homes across South Africa. We have trained over 400 homes in COVID-19 readiness, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Compassionate Care. Many of these homes had no access to formal information due to their physical location, and CHAPS was able to counter these obstacles by providing this interactive training using video conferencing.
During these unprecedented times and with the status of the COVID-19 pandemic as yet unclear across the globe, CHAPS continues to provide the high quality and reliable services that they have been known for in the past. In the nimble and highly technical field of infectious diseases, CHAPS has shown that no matter the challenge, they are up for it and will continue to strive to remain the name that first springs to mind when speaking about the prevention, and community impact of infectious diseases in South Africa.