By: Harshi Hettige, Women Deliver
Jhpiego, a global health care organization for women and families, has made it their mission to ask the question, “How can we make lifesaving services available and accessible to the people who need them—all over the world?” This question will be brought up again and again at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC next week. Together with partners Africare and the Tanzania Marketing and Communication (T-MARC) Company, Jhpiego has found an answer in Tanzania.
Three years ago, Jhpiego led the Universal HIV/AIDS Intervention for Counseling and Testing (UHAI-CT) initiative in the Tanga region with the aim of strengthening and developing health workers’ capacity to provide basic, albeit lifesaving, services to fight HIV/AIDS. According to 2009 estimates, 5.6% of adults (aged 15-49) are living with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania – the 12th highest adult prevalence rate in the world. Since UHAI-CT’s start, approximately “300,000 Tanzanians across nine regions have been tested for HIV, learned their status and been referred to a care and treatment center if appropriate.”
Now, through funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the support of the Tanzanian government and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UHAI-CT is moving onto their next community-based testing step. All health center clients are now offered provider-initiated counseling and an additional benefit of HIV testing.
To help kick it off, the initiative hosted an outreach event at a thriving pub in Tanga called the Arizona Bar. Although an unusual choice, the bar was carefully chosen by Jhpiego to follow their mission of finding easily-accessible venues to provide life-saving information and services. The event offered HIV counseling and testing services to Tanzanians who are on the go: those with transient jobs, unconventional lifestyles, risky sexual behavior, or simply anyone who may have seen an AIDS awareness group leaflet promoting the services on their way to work and knew just where on the busy street Arizona Bar is located.
Four civic groups have been awarded grants to support Jhpiego’s innovative solution of providing convenient, lifesaving care to communities. This solution has provided community members with an alternative to trekking to distant hospitals, and an accessible opportunity to those eager to test their HIV status. Individuals may also partake in group education classes and one-on-one counseling. Many leave with advice to reduce sexual partners, the benefits of voluntary regular testing, a basic knowledge of HIV transmission, myth clarifications, steps to protect oneself and partner, and many with condoms.
Communities in Tanzania have a large range of HIV prevalence; 1.5% in the northern rural Manyara region to 15.7% in the southern highlands of Iringa region. At a recent ceremony attended by more than 30 district representatives, Benedict Ole Kuyang, the Regional Administrative Secretary and highest government official in Tanga region told the audience, “With your support, I believe we will lower the HIV prevalence in Tanga and especially that of Tanga region.”
“We are happy to be bringing this successful outreach counseling and testing program—which was piloted in Iringa region—to Tanga,” said Hally Mahler, Chief of Party of the UHAI-CT program. “I am confident that the people of Tanga will benefit from this extra opportunity to learn their HIV status and take appropriate follow-up actions.
Flickr photograph via le Korrigan.