Low-income childless South Africans are being helped to conceive by cut-price IVF treatment offered by a leading Cape Town fertility clinic. Patients at the Tygerberg Hospital pay around 80 percent less for their modified low-frills treatment than private patients undergoing traditional IVF medication. Jim Drury has more.
STORY: Infertility is an emotive subject in South Africa, with some childless women facing scorn and abuse. Alina Phohlela's supportive husband and family helped her cope. SOUNDBITE (English) ALINA PHOHLELA, MOTHER WHO WAS HELPED ON THE PROGRAMME, SAYING: "In our culture when you are married you are expected to have babies... I for one wanted to have a baby for my own and my husband, and we used to talk about to the end that we gave up, we thought maybe it was God's will." But pioneering cut-price IVF treatment offered at Cape Town's Tygerberg Hospital helped Alina become a mother 18 months ago. Obstetrician Dr. Thabo Matseseng says the clinic aims to help low-income South Africans start families. SOUNDBITE (English) DOCTOR THABO MATSESENG, GYNAECOLOGIST AND OBSTETRICIAN, SAYING: "Not everyone can afford IVF and if you can afford it the majority you will find in the private sector, therefore the whole concept or notion of IVF on a shoestring simply means what is that available bare minimum service you can use to make them available for patients." This involved cutting unnecessary staffing costs and reducing the amount of expensive hormone therapy given to patients. SOUNDBITE (English) DOCTOR THABO MATSESENG, GYNAECOLOGIST AND OBSTETRICIAN, SAYING: "This is the medication we use to build up the eggs in an IVF cycle, and in a complex conventional IVF you will use in excess of 15 to 20 ampules of these injectables." Matseseng thought using fewer drugs could still lead to pregnancy..... and he's been proved right. With a success rate around three quarters that of traditional IVF treatment cycles, but at a fifth of the cost, it's helping poorer South Africans procreate. His success rate should improve further next year. Tygerberg Hospital is taking part in a trial of a cheap portable laboratory called The Walking Egg, developed by European scientists. Initial tests in Belgium have been promising and Dr Matseseng thinks he can help more mothers like Alina Phohlela fulfil their dreams of parenthood.