ZIMPHIA 2020 Could Leapfrog Zim Towards Ending AIDS By 2030

FOR the first time, Gogo Mhlanga (75) of Filabusi in Matebeleland South is seeing the Zimbabwe Population Based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA 2020) survey banner. She wonders what it is all about and why it has been erected close to her homestead.

By Michael Gwarisa

A few minutes later, the ZIMPHIA 2020 Southern Region Survey Coordinator, Mrs Kudzanayi Moyo walks to her and explains what the message on the banner is saying and why the ZIMPHIA team is in the area.

Her face lights up with joy and expresses gratitude to the ZIMPHIA team for considering her community in the survey. She feels the survey should at least have come earlier  during the festive season since majority of the people from the area reside in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana.

Even though her household has not been picked for the survey, she believes the ongoing door to door HIV testing being counducted by ZIMPHIA in various communities offers citizens an opportunity to get tested while in the comfort of their homes.

The door to door HIV survey which kicked off in November 2019, has already registered an overwhelming feedback from both urban and rural communities and according to the ZIMPHIA officials, the first phase of the survey which ended in December witnessed a favorable  community response rate while indications on the ground show that the final phase could end way ahead of schedule judging by the effort the teams are putting in their work.

A total of 36 teams are conducting the survey around the country. 24 teams are covering the Northern regional of Zimbabwe while 12 others are covering the Southern parts. The teams are further classified into routes depending on the areas which fall under their Jurisdiction.

The 2020 HIV survey which is targeting at least 12 000 households for HIV testing comes at a time Zimbabwe is celebrating a reduction in the HIV prevalence as well as a decline in HIV incidence or new infections.

Zimbabwe has also set an ambitious but attainable target of ending AIDS  by 2030 and has committed to attaining the 90 90 90s. The first 90 is set to ensure that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, while second 90 envisions to see by 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and by 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

However, various gaps stand in the way of attaining these 90s. These range from lack of latest and reliable viral load testing technology, poor turnaround time for viral load results, a centralised system of HIV testing and at times drugs shortages.

In an interview with HealthTimes during a ZIMPHIA media tour, Survey Coordinator, Mrs Kudzanayi Moyo said the survey comes through to address some of these gaps by bringing health services right at the door step of the survey subjects.

We are bringing the health facility to the door step of these populations and because we are also offering those other tests, it becomes easier for the participants to get an opportunity to get tested for their viral load and CD4 count and actually understand what it really means to have one’s viral load suppressed. The turnaround period for the viral load results from this survey is about eight to 12 weeks,” said Mrs Moyo.

She added that the survey is getting overwhelming response from communities and people were excited as well.

“This survey is very critical considering that we have the 90 90 90 goals and this survey is going to help us to know what we need to do, where we are lacking and which gaps need to be filled in order to move in eliminating HIV and AIDS by 2030,” she said.

The survey started in 2019 in Victoria Falls, then moved to Hwange, Binga, Gokwe, Kwekwe, and the midlands area in Zvishavane and Gweru. The route four survey started in Tsholotsho , Lupane, Nkayi, Insiza. This year the teams started in Beitbridge, Gwanda the Insiza and Filabusi.

“Reception of the survey in the rural areas has been very good maybe it is because some of the people stay far from health facilities so when they actually have a chance of having a nurse coming through to their homesteads wanting to talk to them and wanting to find out about their health, they become more receptive.

“The response has been quite good people really like having nurses in their homes and they are so open to talk about all their issues and they want to learn more, they want counselling, they want health related education and they just want to know more,” added Mrs Moyo.

The ZIMPHIA survey is a population household survey led by the Health and Child Care Ministry working in collaboration with the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), National Aids Council (NAC), and ICAP at the Columbia University. It is supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The research aims to reach approximately 13 000 households and 23 000 individuals.

ZIMPIA field coordinator for route three Ms Tsepiso Shinda said they were also doing HIV testing for people who already know their HIV status and those who don’t know their status.

“We have additional tests, if you are HIV positive, we have what we call the CD4 count test and the viral load testing which is done in the lab. Upon testing, we will tell the client we have the participant ID (PTID) card which we don’t write the name, we have the initials and the PTID number which is then used to go and collect the information,” said Ms Shinda.

Meanwhile, ZIMPHIA 2020 Laboratory Advisor, Rex Chikara said the ZIMPHIA survey was an objective study as it is backed by laboratory and scientific evidence.

“This survey is different from an opinion survey, the laboratory component is there to show a bit of objectivity in the survey because we are dealing with a biological sample which we can say does not lie or may be mistaken. The lab component is there to confirm the actual status of the survey subject.”

Further tests are done for positive participants in the laboratory. These include the CD4 test, a method which has been used in Zimbabwe for the past 20 years for monitoring how the disease is progressing in the HIV positive participant. They also do viral load which is more accurate and tells the amount of the HIV virus is in the blood circulation.

 

 

 

 

 

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