THE Organisation for Public Health Inventions and Development (OPHID) has ramped up efforts to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Zimbabwe through provision of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) as well as Antiretroviral Treatment drugs reshipments for those living with HIV inside COVID-19 isolation centres.
By Michael Gwarisa
OPHID is one of the three clinical partners that have been selected by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to implement CIVID-19 related interventions from the recent US$150 000 PEPFAR grant. OPHID has also set up satellite services for HIV testing, care and treatment at Plumtree COVID-19 Isolation Center.
OPHID Executive Director, Dr Tinashe Chinyanga said people with HIV who do not know their status are at greater risk of developing COVID-19 complications.
There is another group of people living with HIV who may be at risk for COVID-19 and these are people living with HIV who do not know their status because they have not tested for HIV yet.
“If one is not on treatment, HIV suppresses the immunity and would potentially predispose one to severe forms of COVID-19. Practicing social distancing is of paramount importance for anyone of unknown HIV status currently since it is not the right tome to access HIV services at health facilities, “said Dr Chinyanga.
He added that despite the COVID-19 induced lockdown, citizens can make use of HIV self-testing kits to avoid living in the dark especially in the face of a ravaging pandemic such as COVID-19.
“However, they are opportunities to know one’s status through HIV self- testing. All children and adults living with HIV need to stay on treatment and be healthy. If you are on HIV medication, make sure you get your medicines of at least 30 days. Most health facilities are giving supplies of at least three to six months.
“We know that is more severe in people of suppressed immunity but its impact on people living with HIV who are on treatment is not known at this stage.”
Meanwhile, OPHID has distributed 105 HIV test kits to date and in addition to that, 15 returnees have managed to get ARV refills.
With support from USAID/PEPFAR, OPHID has so far distributed PPE in supported health facilities, mainly targeting Bulawayo, Gwanda, Beitbridge, Mangwe, Plumtree, Matobo, Beitbridge, Umzingwane and Insiza Districts.
PEPFAR has pledged to use $150,000 (USD) to help with COVID-19 prevention measures in Zimbabwe, specifically targeted at people living with HIV. OPHID and other implementing partners will carry out the activities. This move is set to strengthen health systems, so that Zimbabweans can live longer, healthier and happier lives!