The CIDRZ HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment programme supports public health facilities in four of the ten provinces of Zambia by offering prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) services, HIV prevention, care and treatment services, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision and integrating HIV testing services into antenatal care and TB disease screening and treatment programmes.
In Zambia, the HIV epidemic is one of the country’s major public health problems. According to current estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), adult HIV prevalence is 12.9%. Ninety percent of new HIV infections in Zambia are driven by structural and biomedical factors such as multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, mother to child transmission, low and inconsistent condom use, low levels of male circumcision, and mobility and labour migration. The socio-economic impact of HIV and AIDS in Zambia is enormous because the people most affected are at the peak of their productive and reproductive lives.
Implementing Multiple HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Interventions
The CIDRZ PMTCT programme, supporting the Government of the Republic of Zambia, has tested over 1.5 million women and provided over 245,000 women with maternal antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis. The programme has a particular focus on expanding access to more efficacious PMTCT regimens and antiretroviral therapy (ART), and on early infant diagnosis for HIV-exposed babies. The programme is actively involved in implementation of Option B+, where all HIV-infected pregnant women are eligible for combination ART.
As of September 2015 CIDRZ supported 77 facilities and identified 50,700 HIV-infected adults, enrolling 88% into care and retaining 82% of these on life-saving ART. Cumulatively, CIDRZ supports 340,000 adults on ART.
Our integrated TB/HIV programme offers HIV testing to TB patients and TB screening for all HIV patients.
Furthermore, our skills-building activities for clinicians, nurses, radiology, pharmacy, and laboratory professionals improves local healthcare delivery, and enables HIV and other disease prevention and treatment programmes to reach new communities.
In addition, we train community members to perform essential but non-clinical tasks in primary care settings relieving the burden on health clinic staff and improving patient satisfaction. This includes performing voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), ART enrollments, adherence counselling, and health education.
Focus on Adolescents
The Comprehensive PMTCT for At-Risk Teens Program funded by the M.A.C AIDS Fund started providing trained teen-to-teen sexual and reproductive health services through Youth-Friendly Rooms (YFRs) run by trained adolescent Peer Educators in government health facilities in 8 peri-urban communities in Lusaka.
After training adolescent Peer Educators in counselling and service provision on HIV/AIDS Basics, Psychosocial Counselling, Rapid HIV Testing, Family Planning and Adherence Counselling, and preparing youth-appealing rooms the program launched on 1st August 2015 and so far has achieved:
- Testing of 21,435 teens at the YFRs and through community testing drives
- Initiating 715 HIV-positive adolescents into HIV care and treatment and retaining 84% in the program
- Found 5809 pregnant girls of the 17,229 who underwent HIV testing during initial and scale-up program phases
- Provided family planning to 7,487 girls
In addition to HIV testing and condom distribution, teen Peers are also well-versed in providing information, skills and oral family planning. contraceptives to girls aged fifteen to nineteen years while injectable methods and IUDs are provided by registered midwives who rotate between the project sites.
In addition, each YFR is equipped with lending library stocked with Ministry of General Education upper primary and secondary school curriculum academic books. Teens are also attracted to the program by dance, drama and sports activities.
By discussing sexual reproductive health and providing contraception information and supplies to teens, the Comprehensive PMTCT for At-Risk Teen Program not only fulfills an unmet need for these services in this population, but gives teens the skills they need to make important life decisions about when and how many children to have, not only during adolescence, but throughout their lives.
Meet Nancy Chishimba, Adolescent Peer Educator, Comprehensive PMTCT for At-Risk Teens
Nancy is an HIV-positive adolescent Peer Educator under the M.A.C-AIDS Fund program, Comprehensive PMTCT for At-Risk Teens. “I found out my HIV status when I was in grade 9. I used to be sick all the time so my caregiver decided to take me for a test. I tested positive and the first thing that came to my mind was that I was going to die. Life was not easy when I found out about my HIV status. I thought it was the end of the world.” She had already lost both her parents, and one of her two siblings to HIV/AIDS.
Nancy didn’t know that there were so many other teens in a similar situation until she met a mentor who had been trained by CIDRZ. She explained the services and benefits of being a member of this big family of adolescents and so, Nancy decided to give it a try. After attending her first Comprehensive PMTCT meeting she says she was ‘blown away’ by the support she found in the group. “Fellow teens spoke boldly about how a positive HIV result was not the end of the world and I realized that all was not lost. I told myself that if others could find hope, then I could do it to.”
The program has given her a new lease on life, “before I got involved I was short-tempered and angry with the world. I was not adhering to treatment because I felt there was no need to because I had already been given a death sentence. I also didn’t want to be around people. But now all that negativity is in the past. I want to encourage other positive teens to join a youth-friendly group.”
Passionate about dancing, Nancy meets other teen Peers weekly for dance sessions. A choreographer teaches them different routines and they use dance to reach out to their follow teens in communities where the program is active. She is now planning to go back to school. “As a Peer I get a monthly stipend that I have been saving so I can write my exams. The program has a fully stocked library and internet connectivity which will make it easy for my studies.”
Nancy has made it her mission to work in the community to help other youths. She wants all youths that are living with HIV to live positively and wants to help those that are HIV negative to make good choices so that they can maintain their HIV negative status. She says something positive came out of my sad story. “I found a family with the Comprehensive PMTCT for At-Risk Teens project; they trained me to be a Peer Educator and now I am an ambassador for the project.”
Through these multi-pronged approaches,
CIDRZ seeks to make an AIDS-free generation a possibility in Zambia.