With the launch of community HIV-testing and counselling at Engela district last Friday, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has reinforced its intention to strengthen the link between healthcare facilities and the community.
Engela was identified as the first pilot project to conduct household HIV-testing and to offer HIV support from home. In just a month since the programme was introduced at Engela district at the end of July, 656 people were tested, with a mere 10 testing HIV-positive.
The positive testing clients were immediately linked to care and treatment.
Today, Engela has 23 certified health extension workers (HEW), with an additional 37 expected to join the team next week.
The community-based HIV testing and counselling services project will be piloted in Omuthiya district next. Plans by the ministry are underway to expand the testing and counselling programme to an additional two or three districts in 2017/18.
Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Juliet Kavetuna at the launch of the programme at Hamukoto Wakapa Clinic at Engela District in Ohangwena said strengthening the HEW programme would deliver and sustain high impact HIV services at the community level and contribute towards meeting the global UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV epidemic control targets by the year 2020.
She said the launch is also part of the Harambee strategy to identify and deploy community healthworkers to address critical health needs at community and household levels.
“In this model, HIV testing commodities are being successfully and safely maintained at the community level, increasing accessibility while still conforming to national quality standards,” said Kavetuna.
She was content with the level of technical assistance and support from partnering organisations, United States Agency for international Development (USAID), the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to expand access to and quality of integrated HIV and health extension services for vulnerable populations in the country.
“We hope to continue working together to achieve national reductions in women, infant and child morbidity and mortality and foster a sustainable response to the HIV burden,” she said.
Kavetuna further related that through the new programme to control the HIV epidemic is possible, just as the country attained the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to access to education and gender parity in education and health.
She also recognised some of the accolades achieved by the ministry, such as the impressive reduction of under-five deaths from 4 200 per year in 1990 to 3 000 in 2013.
Another notable success is the reduction by half of new HIV infections since 2004. According to Kavetuna, the life average expectancy also rose from 56 in 2005 to 64 in 2013.
To date the ministry boasts 1 660 trained health extension workers, with about 1 366 deployed to 13 regions since the programme was introduced in 2012.