An interview with Tabitha Mutseyekwa, professional nurse with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa

Photo: Sean Christie

How did you become engaged in the HIV response? 

I am a professional nurse and my passion has always lain in making a positive contribution to my community. I am especially interested in the prevention of HIV and improving quality of care for people living with HIV. My dream came true when I started working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Khayelitsha as a study nurse for the early infant diagnosis (EID) study in 2014. I then joined the six months’ supply study where we assessed the feasibility of providing longer antiretroviral therapy (ART) refills to stable clients in ART adherence clubs before I started facilitating postnatal clubs (PNCs) in 2019.

What is your role on a day-to-day basis?

My overall role is to manage the implementation of the PNC model. This includes continuous training and refresher training on the PNC model to healthcare workers in PNC-implementing clinics in Khayelitsha and supervising the recruitment process of mother-infant pairs into PNCs, as well as preparations before and after the PNC visits.

The most rewarding part of working in PNCs for me is the fact that I’m doing what I’m passionate about and I’m also making a positive impact towards an HIV-free generation.

What are the key things to know about the PNC model?

The PNC model has a holistic client-centred approach in the management of postpartum mothers living with HIV and their HIV-exposed babies and improves their retention in care. PNC is feasible, and our clients have accepted and are appreciating this model of care.

What are the main service delivery elements of PNCs ?

  • Integrated maternal and child health services for the mother-infant pairs provided by the PNC nurse
  • HIV and non-HIV care for the mothers living with HIV and their HIV-exposed infants provided by the PNC nurse
  • Peer and psychosocial support, as well as an information session at each visit for the mothers provided by the PNC facilitators
  • Early childhood development (ECD) activities (inspired by the “first 1,000 days”) for the babies at each visit provided by the PNC facilitators.

How have you adapted the PNC model during the COVID-19 lockdown?

To abide by COVID-19 protocols during the lockdown period, we had to suspend the group information session and ECD activities, so we gave the mothers information brochures with key messages. We also gave longer ART refills to mothers and skipped visits that did not require any clinical intervention for the mother-infant pairs.