Elton John AIDS Foundation Chairman David Furnish, Sir Elton John, and Elton John AIDS Foundation CEO Anne Aslett listen to a Tiko member describe her experience of day-to-day life in South Africa
‘No one should suffer from stigma, fear, or lack of access to treatment anymore – everyone deserves the right to a healthy life,’ says Sir Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. For over 30 years, Sir Elton and his team have dedicated millions of dollars and invested in interventions around the world to work towards the eradication of AIDS by 2030. ‘We will not leave anyone behind,’ he says.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation works with grantees, like Triggerise, to create bespoke partnerships that deliver health interventions in vulnerable communities, while monitoring and evaluating the impact. According to UNAIDS, over 70% of new HIV infections occur among key populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and their partners. Thus, our joint focus is on reaching and serving these groups – not just with HIV-related treatment, but mental health care too. ‘We know that mental health and physical health are syndemic and, as such, it is critical that we address these issues simultaneously,’ says Lindsay Hayden, who leads the Young People portfolio at the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In February, our team in Gauteng province, South Africa, were delighted to welcome Sir Elton John to Daveyton Clinic as part of a visit from the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Our partnership with the Foundation began in Mombasa County, Kenya, where more than 13,000 young people have accessed over 20,000 services on the Tiko platform since May 2022. Over this time, 12,055 HIV self-testing kits have been distributed and 3,656 mental health services have been accessed, among others available freely through Tiko. Recently, we have expanded upon that work into South Africa. The core of our programme in South Africa is to support youth aged 15-24 from vulnerable communities in accessing HIV-related treatment, mental health care services, and contraceptives. Our partner who supports us in implementing this programme, Soul City Institute for Social Justice, is an established youth advocacy organisation with over three decades of experience within the South African social development sector.
As we develop this programme in South Africa, we will integrate private clinics, pharmacy franchises and public facilities into our service offering to ensure accessibility for anyone who is within our target group, and all providers will receive training to offer mental health screenings and further referrals when necessary. We will also explore the use of a direct-to-consumer model, where Tiko members can order health products or services for delivery to their homes for free or at significantly discounted rates.
The visit to Daveyton Clinic, a public facility outside Johannesburg, showcased the services available to young people in the area. Nurses and other medical staff from the clinic demonstrated to the delegation what the programme entails, and how youth will be able to access HIV-related services through the Tiko platform here. We are grateful to the Elton John AIDS Foundation for their support that allows us to implement life-saving interventions in multiple countries. As a team, we have been galvanised by Sir Elton’s visit, and are committed to our shared values of ending AIDS and the stigma around it.