Empowering Women Half a World Away

The Patty Brisben Foundation is dedicated to women’s sexual health not just here, but around the globe. Every time you donate to the Foundation, or when you sign up for this Fall’s Queen Bee Virtual 4-Miler, you are helping women become proactive about their sexual health and helping young girls learn about their own sexual well-being.

In South Africa, it’s through the Topsy Foundation NPC, and its Executive Director, Dr. Jana Oosthuizen.

The Topsy Foundation became connected to the Patty Brisben Foundation through a chance introduction. “One of our board members, Dave Heidrich, introduced us to the Foundation when Silvia de Jager, the executive director, visited Crossroads Church in Cincinnati last year,” Dr. Oosthuizen said.

This is the second year that the Patty Brisben Foundation has supported Topsy’s Women’s Health Programme for women in rural Mpumalanga, South Africa. This area, often referred to as a forgotten part of the country due to its scant infrastructure and lack of large-scale industry, is home to several large rural communities. The Topsy Foundation is the only organization of its kind with an active presence in these communities.

The Women’s Health Programme includes:

  • Cervical cancer awareness and pap smears (Topsy provides transportation as well as lunch)
  • Breast cancer awareness and screening (women are trained in breast self-exams)
  • Training of staff
  • Sexually transmitted disease education
  • Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV education
  • Girls and young women vulnerability
  • General women’s health

And the number of lives the Women’s Health Programme has touched already is impressive. Since November of 2016 the clinic has conducted 268 pap smears, treated more than 2,500 adult females through home based care, done 36 X-rays, performed 278 breast examinations, referring 21 of those women for mammograms, and screened 284 women for tuberculosis. Remember, this is a rural area of South Africa where families don’t have access to regular health care. While it’s a women’s clinic, staffers test hearing and eyesight and treat other maladies when they think it is needed.

Here are a couple of case studies, the first from Joan van Maanen, a professional nurse:

“A lady (33 years old) came in with her mother for a pap smear but it was very clear that she was not well. She had significant trouble breathing and clearly was in distress. She had been to her local clinic on several occasions, with no real solution.

“After taking a chest X-ray, it was clear that she had TB and she was referred to her local clinic, where she can start treatment and have an opportunity to get better and be around for her children. Without Topsy’s Women’s Health Programme, it would have gone unidentified and she might have died.”

Here’s another example from Betty Skosana, a community worker:

“With all the myths that we have about a pap smear, this story is a positive one. One of the myths is that a pap smear causes a woman to be infertile. I was visiting one of our patients who came to Topsy because of an STI (sexually transmitted infection). She didn’t want to come, but I motivated her. When she came in she was treated with antibiotics and had a pap smear. The result was she needed a colposcopy to be done. When I visited her again to give her the results, she told me she is now pregnant and the pap smear was the problem solver. She wants to name the child Topsy.”

You can see how a little bit of help goes a long way to communities that do not have the health care we take for granted. “The statistics clearly show how many women we reach with the support of the Patty Brisben Foundation,” said Dr. Oosthuizen.

We applaud Dr. Oosthuizen and the work of the Topsy Foundation. We are proud to be a small part of the amazing work they are doing there.

To learn more about the change this group is making, visit http://www.topsy.org.za/.

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