ST Albert’s Mission Hospital in Centenary’s Muzarabani district, Mashonaland Central, has gone a gear up in its HIV and Aids intervention programmes through a unique HIV testing and counselling programme that targets young people less than 16 years.
By Moses Mugugunyeki in Centenary
The Catholic-run mission, credited for conducting the first successful anti-retroviral therapy under the prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission programme in 2001, has embraced children and young people in its HIV intervention programmes and it’s paying off.
“Our initiative under the Multi-Health Assessment programme is unique. In its six months in existence, it has done wonders in the district,” St Albert’s Mission Hospital monitoring and evaluation officer Simbarashe Garwe said.
“The outreach programme involves HIV testing and counselling, basic hygiene, and we check for other ailments whereby we treat those ailments on site or we refer patients to the clinics.”
Garwe singled out HIV testing and counselling as the success story of the programme.
“HIV testing and counselling have improved in the district since the day we started this programme. Our clinics used to test and counsel 130 people a month, but they are now testing and counselling 2 000 people a month,” he said.
Garwe said they tested children less than 16 years after parents’ consent.
“We get the green light from the parents and the results are also given to the parents. We can only test and counsel the child after the parent or guardian has signed consent forms,” he said.
“We have realised that if parents have signed the consent forms, they are also concerned with their HIV status and end up going for HIV testing and counselling.”
The mission hospital also targets school leavers through an adolescent community programme.
“This is an outreach programme where we reach those above 16 years. We hold roadshows, soccer and netball tournaments in communities. During the course of these tournaments and roadshows, we would be testing and counselling those interested,” he said.
Muzarabani district medical officer Julia Musariri hailed the programme, but called for mandatory HIV testing and counselling.
“Everyone should get an HIV test at the health centre just like we do with other diseases. HIV testing should be mandatory if we are to end Aids by 2030,” she said.