The Tutu Tester


The Tutu Tester mobile unit provides a free comprehensive health service to under serviced communities. It is in the field daily offering nutrition and healthy life-style education, HIV counselling and testing, point of care CD4 testing, screening for tuberculosis, and a range of general health screening tests. The aim is to improve the health of individuals in vulnerable communities and to normalise HIV testing.

The project is in line with the National Department of Health Health Sector Strategic Framework that includes:

  • Accelerated implementation of the HIV & AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections National Strategic Plan 2012 – 2016
  • Mass mobilisation for a healthier population

Since the unit’s inception in May 2008 almost 40 000 individuals have been seen by the dedicated Tutu Tester team; 30 – 50 people are seen each day.  Philip Smith is the project coordinator and Jacqui Dalimore is the nurse practitioner in the field with her team of three counsellors, a driver, and an enthusiastic intern from the US.

The primary focus of the project is to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition and transmission in all tested clients irrespective of positive or negative HIV status. The unit has covered many areas servicing the public at transport hubs, farms, factories, hotels, gay bars, and sporting events to name a few.   Currently the unit is operating in the Mitchells Plain/Klipfontein substructure at the request of the local health department.    The team plays an important role in linking patients who need care to public health services, following up with cell phone calls where necessary.

Clients register at the unit through a finger print biometric system ensuring confidentiality.   A Pima analyser measures the CD4 count of clients who test HIV positive giving a result within 20 minutes. The latest innovation is a GeneXpert machine donated by the Life Healthcare Foundation.   This is fitted into the Tutu Trailer towed by the Tutu Tester.  This diagnostic machine gives a rapid, accurate diagnosis for tuberculosis; altogether making the Tutu Tester an efficient and effective one-stop-shop for clients.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Agénce Francaise Developpment provided the funds to build the unit and Metropolitan Health assisted with running costs for the first years.

We are proud that the service is now South African funded through a new partnership with Metropolitan and Discovery Health. We are most grateful to both companies for their commitment to public health enabling this vital service to continue.

We are actively seeking additional partners for the on-going support of this project.

Tutu Treater

The success of the Tutu Tester piqued the interest of the Rotary Club of Claremont. Together with the Rotary Club of Kirkkudbright, Scotland they funded building the Tutu Treater with the purpose of reaching communities in the rural areas of the Western Cape.

The DTHF does not have the infrastructure to run a distance project so we happily gave Right to Care, a non-profit organisation in the Hermanus area, the opportunity to operate the Tutu Treater in the Overberg.

This project continues and has been favourably received by the farming community