The Tutu HIV Foundation Saves Lives

Feature Article | November 30, 2012 by Susan Galer

Nombulelo Cebu, volunteer with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (Photo: private)

The Republic of South Africa is an amazing country from spectacular wonders of nature and exotic wildlife, to hip cities and diverse cultures. But the country is also estimated to have more people infected with HIV/AIDS than any other country in the world, and the fourth largest rate of tuberculosis worldwide. In a country where approximately 25% of the population is unemployed, and lives on less than US $1.25 a day, there’s no doubt the health care situation requires heroes. One group that’s stepped up to help is the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (DTHF).

Working toward an AIDS-free South Africa

Supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu since its founding in 2004, DTHF originated in the HIV Research Unit at New Somerset Hospital in Cape Town. The Unit was one of the first public clinics to offer anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV. According to DTHF Deputy Director, Linda-Gail Bekker, its work has only become more important over the years. “We have a vision of an AIDS-free South Africa. Our research, treatment, and prevention efforts to reduce the effects of this pandemic on South Africans have grown 90% over the past four years,” she says.

VIDEO: See first-hand how the Desmond Tutu Foundation works toward an AIDS-free South Africa

In addition to clinical trials, DTHF provides free education, testing, and treatment for HIV and TB to hundreds if not thousands of individuals every year from at least four locations in the Cape Town area. Two mobile units also travel to outlying townships and rural areas. DTHF counselor Flora Thobela, knows first-hand the tremendous difference that timely information and treatment can make. Diagnosed with HIV 20 years ago when she was pregnant, Thobela participated in a clinical trial with the encouragement of DTHF. Today she’s living with AIDS and working as a counselor for the foundation. She says patient response to DTHF has been tremendously positive. People value the medical attention, but having someone who cares is just as important for many.

“As an HIV patient, you have to fight to be heard, and the Tutu Foundation helps give people a voice,” Thobela says. “When you are given an HIV positive diagnosis there’s fear of the unknown. But if a person that lives with HIV tells the person how it feels, what it means, things become easier.”

Next page: How SAP Business One helps DTHF save over U.S.$45,000 a year

As DTHF has grown with numerous new projects and leaders who are often away, so have expensive regulatory audits and administrative costs. To better manage operations, including compliance with stringent governance requirements, DTHF turned to SAP Business One for a new grant and financial management system that was developed by SAP partner Bluekey Software Solutions.

Financial transparency helps simplify a complex organization

There aren’t many software packages able to deal with non-government organization requirements, explains Jill Thorne, DTHF General Manager. “SAP Business One is a centralized, credible, robust financial system that increases our ability to receive grants and extend social benefit. It keeps the engine running regardless of where management is around the world.”

Thorne expects SAP Business One to substantially reduce audit costs even as DTHF grows. The system has already reduced transaction processing times by 30%, giving project leaders the ability to authorize and approve projects from anywhere on their mobile devices. Creditor summary reports have significantly improved creditor management, while multi-currency reports automatically calculate exchange rate risks, something DTHF couldn’t do before. Thorne estimates savings of over U.S.$45,000 a year with the new software that allows DTHF to do full cost recovery faster.

What’s more, full transparency allows physicians to understand exactly how much budget they have and what they can spend. “Each clinical trial has its own designated budget that can’t be shared with other trials. Before this, people were so afraid of going over budget that they often wouldn’t spend money at all. Now they can make informed spending decisions easily, freeing up more time for patient care,” Thorne reports.

Next page: “Peope are dying so there’s no time to waste.”

Anyone using SAP Business One has easy, real-time access to the information they need, also saving time and money. “With a few clicks of a button, they can see where the procurement process might be held up. They don’t need to phone lots of people to find out what’s going on,” explains Thorne.

Getting the right information and treatment at the right time helps save lives

Efficient fund management, grant control, and financial transparency are crucial to secure future funding as well. Bekker points out, “When donor organizations are able to see that their grants are being put to good use and can be tracked and proven, the probability of repeat funding is dramatically increased.”

Bekker believes SAP Business One has made a huge difference in helping DTHF spend more time on the clinical trials, treatment, and prevention efforts the country desperately requires. “People are dying so there’s no time to waste. This system frees up everyone’s time to focus more on what we’re actually about—to end HIV, to end tuberculosis—and make it a better world for the people in South Africa.”

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