Why people default from life saving medication-Mopani Practitioners’ Perspectives

Pills which were never opened from one defaulter traced by Oscar

I recently learned about a patient who has defaulted from ARV medication at Dr CN Phatudi Hospital just outside Tzaneen. So I decided to check with other people who are working from health facilities as to what could be the reason for defaulting from life saving medication. I have contacted people from the Greater Tzaneen Local Municipal area, the Greater Letaba Local Municipal area and Greater Giyani Local Municipal area under Mopani District Municipal area in Limpopo. When you read this blog post, you must pay attention on how different explanations links to one another.


Francinah Chauke is one of 20 Prevention Treatment Literacy Practitioners (PTLPs) working for Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Mopani District, Limpopo. A PTLP is a community-based educator at a health facility who teaches patients about treatment and prevention. One of the roles of PTLPs is to trace treatment defaulters –people who have recently failed to collect their medication.

In situations like one mentioned above, a PTLP needs to understand why a person has defaulted, and convince him or her to start treatment again. Unfortunately, for some this process occurs too late as HIV or TB may have done too much damage in the time that they have been off treatment.


“The main reason for defaulting is a social grant”, says Chauke. “Most people told me that they felt their grant was going to be terminated if their health improved, so they [would] rather stay unfit to maintain the social grant.”

These pills were never opened by the patient, what a waist of public funds

Oscar Mabela is a TAC PTLP at Dr C N Phatudi Hospital, Limpopo. “The major problem in my area is transport,” he says. “People have to use public transport to get to the facility while they don’t even have food to eat at their homes.” This problem links with the difficulty that Francinah noticed: when people have no food and no money for transport, many would rather stay at home until they are unwell and then apply for a social grant.

“People working on farms mostly do not have the time free to collect their treatment,” says Masingita

Mavodze from Rotterdam. “They would rather not even ask permission from their bosses because they need to protect their jobs”. Some people who migrate from one place to another for work do not even consider getting transfer letters that would allow them to obtain treatment closer to their next job.

During the door-to-door campaign at Mariveni village

In light of these findings, TAC Mopani assigned Chauke to work on local farms, educating people about the importance of taking treatment correctly and on time.

Blog post by Adam Malapa, TAC Mopani Communications Officer

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