Africaid-Zvandiri Improves Viral Load Testing Coverage in Beitbridge
The Zvandiri Program supports and cares for children, adolescents and young people living with HIV (CAYPLHIV) aged 0-24 years. The organization began working in Beitbridge in all 19 health facilities, in October 2020, with funding from USAID. Before implementation started, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and Africaid-Zvandiri conducted a baseline survey which showed that only 345 out of 1845 (19%) CAYPLHIV in the district had a documented and valid viral load (VL) result. Shortages of testing reagents at the district laboratory, transportation of blood samples and a long turnaround time for viral load results, had resulted in this low coverage in the district.
With baseline data at hand, the Zvandiri team and the District Health Executives (DHE) planned for a push on viral load testing through integrated site support visits and support group meetings. The exercise ran from 14th to 18th of December 2020.
Community Adolescent treatment Supporters (CATS) were hugely important in mobilizing CAYPLHIV and running support groups where viral load tests could be done. The DHE supported the health facilities with COVID-19 preventive measures during the exercise and Africaid-Zvandiri facilitated transport to deliver the samples to the district lab.
This Zvandiri-initiated and supported effort to rapidly increase viral load testing reached a total 339 CAYPLHIV (225F:114M). In just one week the coverage jumped from 19% to 37%, of the 1845 CAYPLHIV. This motivated the health care workers at other facilities to step-up viral load testing with support from the CATS. By end of December, 253 more clients had been bled for viral load. In addition to the testing 37 caregivers who accompanied their children to the facility were supported with information about disclosure of HIV status to the children and the need for parent-initiated enhanced adherence counselling.
The Zvandiri program tailored the viral load testing exercise to the needs of the CAYPLHIV in Beitbridge, integrating testing with support group meetings where the CAYPLHIV interacted and were encouraged by their peers. Partnerships with clinical partners in the district including OPHID helped further increase access to viral load testing and improved quality care and treatment of CAYPLHIV.
The district nursing officer commended the efforts of the entire team on this important rapid increase in viral load testing.
“This game-changing VL ‘surge’ spearheaded by Africaid is what we have been yearning for as a district”
- District Nursing Officer, Beitbridge