This week, we have been visiting communities in Magoye district, visiting Community Adherence Groups – CAGS. Interesting to visiting communities and see how they appreciate the efforts that CIDRZ is making in ensuring that people access ART with “ease” CIDRZ, with support front the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
With support from CIDRZ, the CAGs have brought a difference in individuals lives as well as communities – both intended and unintended. People are now free to talk about their HIV status and offer each other support for the challenges they encounter. Some of them have even broken the barrier that previously existed and are freely talking about their status in their communities.
One of the communities we visited, we were happy to find that the CAG has even gone a step further to start a livelihood project – they have a vegetable garden and a considerable amount of hectares for groundnuts.
We visited three communities to hear their views about the CAG’s and challenges they used to face prior to the introduction of the CAG’s. In one of the communities we visited, about 45km from Mazabuka, people face different challenges that include movement from their homes to the nearest clinic, Magoye.
“We have to cross the dam when going to the clinic and this is usually a challenge in the rain season when the dam overflows. When this happens we can’t use our bicycles, we just have to walk to the clinic to get medication. This is particularly a challenge especially for women,” narrates Herbert Mwiinga, CAG supervisor for one of the CAGs Ceembe village.
At clinic level, “we used to go and get our drugs on a monthly basis, often with long queues spending more time at the facility, but from the time CAGs were introduced at Magoye Healthy Facility, we alternate on drug collection amongst ourselves. We each go there twice in a year. This is indeed a good initiative,” he adds.
The ART in Charge at Magoye clinic is full of praise for the model, “the CAGs have helped us in terms of retention of ART clients. We no longer have long queues and ART clients don’t have to come here on a monthly basis as the case was previously. We are proud of this and thanks to CIDRZ and the donors for this initiative,” says Leah Mwale.
CAGs are a community-based HIV treatment model promoted to improve long-term retention in care. It combines clinical visit spacing, group drug-pick up and distribution in the community, and peer social support to reduce the high opportunity costs of clinic visits and promote patient self-management. Although existing data suggest that retention is higher in CAGs compared to facility-based care, the overall public health impact of CAGs depends on the fraction of eligible patients who take up the model.