SOUTH AFRICA — Dis-Chem, a prominent pharmacy chain, has joined forces with Ezintsha, a multidisciplinary research center focused on HIV prevention through Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), to tackle the high prevalence of HIV in South Africa.
The collaborative project aims to enhance awareness, availability, and access to PrEP, targeting HIV-negative individuals at high risk.
According to recent estimates from Thembisa, a mathematical model of HIV in South Africa, approximately 13.2% of the population, or 7.8 million people, were living with HIV in 2022.
PrEP, a combination of anti-HIV medication, acts as a preventive measure for HIV-negative individuals.
Dis-Chem is implementing the project at two of its pharmacies, namely Wonderboom and Hammanskraal, to provide peri-urban consumers with increased access to HIV prevention medicine.
The partnership covers funding for nurse and doctor consultations, necessary blood tests, and medication for eligible patients within Dis-Chem’s existing clinic infrastructure.
Additionally, Dis-Chem’s clinics offer comprehensive treatment, including addressing PrEP side effects and other allied health needs, such as contraception, screenings, and STI treatment.
Ezintsha ensures the presence of trained HIV counselors at each store to provide support and guidance to individuals seeking assistance.
The Department of Health contributes vital information on the significance of PrEP, its correct usage, and its benefits.
Angela Tembo, pharmacy project lead at Ezintsha, emphasizes the need for diverse approaches to meet UNAids’ target to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
She states, ‘’To meet the UNAids’ target to end HIV/Aids by 2030, we need to have different approaches to ensure that negative people stay negative.
Placing the project in pharmacies is seen as a strategic move due to the high number of people accessing healthcare through pharmacies in South Africa.
“Having this project in pharmacies is exciting for us as pharmacies are often a first port of call for people seeking healthcare in South Africa and have a role to play in HIV prevention due to the sheer number of people that access emergency contraceptives and STI treatment,” she adds.
Joha-Nita Jordaan, Dis-Chem clinic divisional manager, highlights the project’s importance in reducing HIV-positive numbers in South Africa.
The initiative aims to benefit individuals repeatedly exposed to HIV, those with HIV-positive or unknown-status partners, those with multiple sexual partners, individuals with recent STIs, and those requiring Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
Aggressive expansion drive
As Dis-Chem actively engages in HIV prevention efforts, it has also embarked on an ambitious expansion plan, with up to 140 stores planned in the next three years.
The pharmacy retailer seeks to drive growth and further integrate healthcare services into its stores, leveraging its dominant position in the dispensary segment.
In a broader context, the pharmacy retail landscape is witnessing increased competition, with Shoprite launching a telemedicine service to compete with Dis-Chem’s established telemedicine investments.
Furthermore, Dis-Chem is set to launch the Better Health podcast, focusing on primary healthcare and wellness.
The podcast aims to provide authentic, South African content, featuring noteworthy individuals from various fields.
Each episode will spotlight noteworthy people from different walks of life, including sports stars, entertainers, healthcare specialists, beauty and fitness gurus, and more.
Lynette Saltzman, founder and director at Dis-Chem, emphasizes the podcast’s role in meaningful conversations about healthcare, edutainment, and empowering consumers with accurate health information.
Lynette Saltzman, founder, and director at Dis-Chem says, “We have challenges like mental health, load shedding, rising costs, and unemployment that plague our nation, and it is difficult to find local podcasts that South Africans can relate to. This series will provide authentic, South African content that resonates with real-life, local experiences,”
The Dis-Chem Better Health podcast will stream on Dis-Chem’s website (both audio and video) and will be available on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and everywhere else you get your podcasts.