By Alex Ekblom
On Sunday, the Zimbabwe team hosted their satellite, “Together We Can: Achieving Virtual Elimination of New Pediatric HIV Infections in Zimbabwe by 2015 Through Strategic Public-Private Partnerships”, which featured introductory remarks from Chip Lyons, and presentations from Nick Hellman, Agnes Mahomva, Auxilia Muchedzi, Batsi Chikwinya, Caroline Zinyemba, Angela Mushavi, Theresa Ndoro of OPHID and Peter McDermott, Managing Director of CIFF.
The satellite focused on Zimbabwe’s pediatric HIV context (151,000 children are living with HIV in Zimbabwe), engagement in the national pediatric HIV elimination agenda in Zimbabwe, and key innovations that will be rolled out to achieve this goal.
Angela presented on national strategies, including implementation of a results-based management system, integration of health services, implementation of a multi-disciplinary approach, supportive engagement with people living with HIV, and how to strengthen human resource capacity, supply chain management, and lab capacity. Angela underscored the need for community involvement to achieve elimination.
Agnes presented on the recent rapid coverage expansion of PMTCT services (especially in the accelerated coverage of more efficacious drug regimens) through a variety of approaches, including use of district focal persons, implementation of point-of-care CD4 testing, and mass communications on PMTCT. She indicated that meaningful partnerships with other NGOs and government agencies are instrumental in achievement of this national goal.
Batsi discussed implementation of the district focal person and how EGPAF trained 30 nurses to support districts to roll out increased coverage of PMTCT.
Auxilia presented on the national roll-out of 50 point-of-care CD4 machines, which (based on a quasi-experimental study of the intervention) have effectively increased testing of HIV and enrollment in care.
Carol focused her presentation on a national communications strategy deployed by EGPAF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe, which has included a training of 30 journalists on PMTCT, and newspaper and radio announcements on the importance of engagement in PMTCT.
Peter McDermott presented on a donor perspective focused on strengthened cost/data analyses. He indicated that what we should aim to not just change policy and practice in one geographic location for the better, but to build a body of knowledge around good HIV programming for global policy and practice change. He highlighted what it will take to eliminate pediatric HIV, which includes strengthened HR, M&E, task-shifting, record-keeping, and addressing gaps in the PMTCT cascade.
Nick discussed EGPAF strategies in achieving virtual elimination of pediatric HIV and highlighted challenges. The discussion portion of this satellite brought about interesting remarks, including how stigma is being addressed, how adolescents are being approached, what will happen with district focal persons after 2015, first ANC attendance and how it has been affected by the communications strategies, and issues around loss to follow-up.