I empower patients, as living with HIV involves lots of psycho-social issues and stigma

Marigold Mupunga talks about her first few weeks as a social worker at the Newlands Clinic. Find out what inspires her most, and what is crucial in her role.

Marigold serves as the liaison between the patient, the doctors, nurses, psychologists and project officers. “Living with HIV involves lots of psycho-social issues and stigma. That requires me to empower patients and support them at all times. They have a variety of challenges: medical, mental, family-related, financial and cultural”. First, she conducts assessments to find out which areas require the most attention. She wants to learn how patients are feeling psychologically, whether or not they are taking their medication, and if their social environment gives them enough support. Counselling sessions at the clinic, as well as home visits, help Marigold to assess the situation and find the solution that is best for the patient. “Every case is unique, and requires me to react according to that patient’s particular circumstances.”

Marigold has gained a wealth of experience in a variety of areas over the last couple of years: “I started my career as a secondary school teacher, worked in research and had different counselling roles in other hospitals”. This experience helps her to gain the patient’s trust. “They share very personal stories. Some of them are desperate and sad. From the moment they enter my counselling room, they understand that whatever they tell me will be kept confidential. I approach them in a friendly and open way.” Marigold is a coach. She doesn’t give advice, but guides her patients in finding out how they can help themselves.

The services at the Newlands Clinic include one-on-one counselling, as well as group therapy sessions. “Group therapy helps the patients to share their experiences with others. They bring their support partners along, because their system at home helps them to take their medication. The patients are always impressed to see that they are not alone. It has a relaxing effect on them.”

What inspires Marigold most about her job is helping a patient out of a place of deep, heavy emotion and seeing them smile again. By walking this path alongside them, she can observe how their lives are completely turned around. She has realised that patients need to share life issues, and an open ear makes them feel better, and helps them to achieve their goals. “I remember a young woman who was referred to the clinic a couple of weeks ago with her baby. She didn’t have a place to stay and was therefore very sad and desperate. After a few sessions over three weeks, she went through a real transformation. She reconnected with her fiancé, found the right support partner, and found opportunities to make a small living.” 

Marigold likes the unique atmosphere at the Newlands Clinic. “The work isn’t just routine for us. The clinic creates an atmosphere that makes it easy for the patients to open up and share personal issues.”

We wish Marigold every success, and look forward to reading more about her work with our patients!