By Henry Neondo
HIV is now 40-plus years since emerging as a global health problem, but complacency and reduced funding continue to make it an ‘unfinished agenda’ Winnie Sseruma, an activist, and Linda Bakker, a researcher said recently.
Years since first recognized as a global health threat, those first diagnosed with the problem have now aged with it and now live with a number of co-morbidities.
“The experience and lessons we have learned over the years is that time to an integrated approach in HIV care was now. There is a need to position HIV within the broader global health agenda given,” said Linda.
The two discussed the efforts to improve patient-centered HIV care and issues related to the stigma around HIV and complacency and lack of visibility for HIV.
In addition, the two talked about the need for differentiated service delivery and cited South Africa and Mozambique as models for other parts of Africa. They focused on HIV prevention and some of the difficulties of reaching certain populations to better communicate effective prevention practices.
According to Sseruma, the battle against HIV has repeatedly suffered because of recession, and limited funding. COVID -19 outbreak in 2020 exacerbated the problem further.
She said with the multiple global problems, integrating HIV among other global challenges offers the most cost-effective way to manage the burden.
Linda added that the WHO has now brought out differentiated approaches to prevent HIV defining the Who, and the what and where of prevention.
In South Africa, 1.5 million access ARVs within their communities and do not have to line up in a queue to pick up their medicines. “The motorcycle riders would simply take the medication to where people can easily access them,” she said.
This has come in handy given that the burden of care for people living with HIV within communities lie with grandmothers. “But they need more support in training and incoming generating activities that could empower them to take care of the orphaned children living with HIV,” said Sseruma.
A good example on the continent is South Africa, which has developed programmes that support the elderly and have them running small-scale poultry that they are able to sell with the produce going to buy ARVs for their grandchildren.
According to the two, HIV testing and prevention are still issues that bedevil Africa where most people only access the services only when they are sick.
“The challenge is how to have people monitor their health status and freely walk into healthcare for personal care. In Africa people hardly access prevention and only seek attention when they are already down with sickness,” said Linda.
She adds that the problem is worse in hard to reach population and has been aggravated by COVID. A number of clinics are hard and not easy for populations that are vulnerable.
The solution lies in taking services to where people are and not wait for them to find their way into clinics.