By CHENGETO CHIDI
PEOPLE living with HIV and AIDS have expressed joy at an initiative by National AIDS Council (NAC) which has seen facilitators delivering Antiretroviral drugs to their homes instead of them having to travel to health care facilities for their regimes.
Prisca Kurida who lives with HIV, commended the Community Antiretroviral Treatment Care Facilitator (CATCF) saying by bringing ART treatment to their homes, NAC has helped in cutting the long distances which they were forced to travel long distances to access health services.
“We were forced to walk long distances in order to access treatment but now our CATCF brings us the medication into our homes,” Kurida said.
In sharing her experiences, Kurinda said she was a mother of 5 including a set of triplets, all being HIV negative.
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Having been affected by travel restrictions during the Covid 19 induced lockdown, Kurinda said with the new model many like her would no longer be affected.
“The feedback from the community shows that the program has been accepted by the community, especially given the chances of defaulting on medication since we will always have our supplies,” she said.
Her husband Moral Muje, also added his voice saying the facility had cut a lot of problems which at times saw people living with HIV struggling with accessing drugs at health centres.
“Previously there would be long queues when we went to collect medication but now it has changed because we receive the medication at home especially when we have some work keeping us busy and we will not have to leave home and there are even groups of tens where a representative can collect for everyone and distribute to the respective individuals in the community,” he said.
The couple urged people to get tested, seek treatment in time as well as adhere to treatment.
The program which has been running for 3 years, is a pilot project started in 2020 for Makoni district where the HIV prevalence rate was at 12% while ART coverage stood at 87%. The intention is to roll it out across the country.
NAC District AIDS Coordinator for Makoni Spencer Banguza said defaults had been cut owing to the program.
“The idea of this program is to bring HIV treatment and care to the doorsteps of people living with HIV and even those without HIV… the Community ART Treatment and Care Facilitator (CATCF) program is meant to bring the clinic to the community,” he said.
CATCF has also assisted those who don’t want to be exposed to the public while collecting their Art regimes at public hospitals.
“Some clients are not comfortable to come and collect medication because of time constraints, some may have issues with disclosure so we have recruited cadres on the ground to offer these services within the community on behalf of the facility-they remind clients on treatment and the need to have viral load checked, distribute condoms through differentiated supply,” Banguza shared.
Nurse in charge at St Therese hospital Pius Makomo said the program has improved the welfare of people living with HIV in the district
“Under this programme, we have managed to develop and maintain a feedback system with people living with HIV through the community cadres,” he said.
The pilot project began in a bid to decongest the facility in the COVID-19 phase and it has helped to improve treatment adherence in the community.