Treatment experiences of HIV positive temporary cross-border migrants in Johannesburg : access, treatment continuity and support networks.

Hwati, Roseline
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As the economic hub of South Africa, Johannesburg attracts cross-border migrants in search of improved livelihoods; over half the population of some of its inner-city suburbs are made up of cross border migrants. Globally as well as locally, foreigners have been blamed for the spread of diseases such as HIV. As a result, they have suffered challenges in accessing public healthcare, particularly antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV. Studies have shown that despite these challenges - foreigners experienced better ART outcomes than nationals. There is a need to explore the ways in which cross border migrants use to access and to stay on treatment, given the wide-range of challenges that they face during their stay in Johannesburg. Semi-structured interviews with five nurses and ten cross-border migrants currently receiving ART, along with non-participant observations, were used to collect data from two public clinics in inner-city Johannesburg. Analysis suggests that the family network in the country of origin remains critical, as cross border migrants are not disclosing their status in the city in which they live, but do so to their families in their countries of origin. Data shows that when it comes to accessing and staying on treatment, cross-border migrants go to the clinic every month as do nationals; ask for more treatment from nurses when going home temporarily; eat healthily; but hide when taking medication, and negotiate confidentiality and trust within their families in countries of origin. Some are found to access treatment in their countries of origin while staying in Johannesburg. Despite the lack of social networks in the inner city, this data suggests that cross-border migrants are successful in accessing and continuing with ART. There is need for future research to look at social networks for internal migrants, so as to compare results.