In line with its mission to provide all members with equitable access to affordable and comprehensive quality healthcare that promotes member wellbeing, the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) has consistently grown the number of beneficiaries enrolled on its HIV disease management programme.
“HIV remains a significant health concern in South Africa, however through improved management of the condition HIV positive people are living long and productive lives, and making an enormous contribution to our country,” says Dr Stan Moloabi, Chief Operations Officer of GEMS.
“This World AIDS Day, we reflect on how far the world has come in terms of available treatment and the understanding of HIV management. Furthermore, the stigma that was once associated with the condition is being displaced as society is becoming more enlightened about HIV.”
“Over the last two years GEMS has increased enrolment participation on our HIV disease management programme by almost 10%. This means HIV positive GEMS beneficiaries are receiving additional support to optimise their health and wellness, as well as antiretroviral therapy. The monetary value of the care provided to those on this programme amounts to some R4.2 billion per year. That, however, is not a consideration when the value of this programme in terms of improved wellness for each of these beneficiaries is considered.”
A great advantage of joining the HIV management programme is that those enrolled benefit from access to a specially trained medical team who will review each member’s details and consult with their treating doctor to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment. Doctors receive clinical support and guidelines to assist them in delivering optimal treatment for their patients.
An additional benefit for beneficiaries enrolled on all GEMS Disease Management and Chronic Medicine Programmes, is that these beneficiaries have their medicines despatched to them by the Scheme’s contracted Courier Pharmacy for added convenience. Dedicated teams at the Designated Service Providers (which are part of the GEMS Pharmacy Network) and Courier Service Pharmacies are also available to provide telephonic clinical advice relating to the condition and the effective use of prescribed medicine.
“Where appropriate, and in consultation with the individual’s treating doctor, these beneficiaries can access medicine that can prevent or treat opportunistic infections, including multivitamins. The programme furthermore provides for all pathology tests required for monitoring the enrolled beneficiaries condition, which is regularly monitored to ensure the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment,” Dr Moloabi adds.
“There have been considerable advances in HIV treatment over the past few years. It is our goal to help maximise GEMS’ beneficiaries wellness so that they can enjoy a good quality of life for many years to come.”
Beneficiaries enrolled on the GEMS HIV Management Programme and their treating doctors receive reminders for their regular health check-ups. This close monitoring of the beneficiaries’ state of health is key to ensuring that treatment is updated when necessary.
“GEMS provides access to HIV testing and counselling for all members as part of our commitment to ensure that those who are HIV positive should commence treatment as soon as possible. In the case of possible accidental exposure, for example in the case of sexual assault or needle stick injury, treatment to help prevent HIV is also available.
“HIV positive mothers on the programme are supplied with the necessary medicine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, and have access to advice and information to support them.”
According to Dr Moloabi, GEMS protects the privacy of all members in line with its strict policies on safeguarding confidential medical information. Therefore particular care is taken to ensure that confidentiality is maintained in respect of beneficiaries on the HIV Management Programme.
“This programme is managed by a team of healthcare professionals separately from other Scheme programmes. This means that beneficiaries can be absolutely assured of confidentiality and privacy. If a beneficiary registers on the programme, other dependants and the main member will not be made aware of this or any information that could disclose their HIV status,” he adds.
“We encourage all GEMS members, their beneficiaries and members of the public to know their HIV status. It has been proven that the sooner one begins treatment, the better. If HIV is appropriately managed, such as with the additional support provided through GEMS HIV Disease Management Programme, HIV positive individuals can expect to live long and fulfilling lives,” Dr Moloabi concluded.