#COVID-19: NAC Adjusts HIV Services According To COVID-19 Framework

THE National Aids Council (NAC) says it has modified its operations in accordance with the new COVID-19 environment in a bid to avoid disruption of critical services under the prevailing pandemic.

By Michael Gwarisa

In an Interview with HealthTimes, NAC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Benard Madzima said services were largely affected at the initial stages of the lockdown owing to strict restrictions which characterized the environment then but they have since found innovative ways of availing critical services to communities across the country.

Since the start of the national Lockdown in March due to the pandemic of COVID-19 and because one of the areas which have been affected by the pandemic has been the issue of travel and gatherings, because of these restrictions, services in general and HIV testing and counseling and other other HIV related services have been affected especially during the first three weeks of the lockdown where people really needed to justify their movement.

“There was a lot of services disruption. But as we then moved into the second phase of the lockdown, and also people getting to understand the dynamics of the lockdown, what has happened in that innovative ideas and mechanisms have been put into place to make sure that services are not disrupted,” said Dr Madzima.

He added that Zimbabwe can not afford to sleep with regards to addressing the already existing HIV and health challenges demands as this could come back and haunt the health sector post the COVID-19 crisis.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Dr Tedros has also noted that countries with weak health systems including Zimbabwe need to be very careful in terms of not regressing on other health challenges which they have been facing before COVID-19 and the HIV and AIDS program is one of those amongst others which include Malaria, Tuberculosis (TB), Maternal Child Health issues and nutrition.

“So we really need to be alert and make sure that we dont suffer regression in terms of those programs. As NAC, we are working with the National Taskforce, we are working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), to ensure that our services are there to the generality of the population and also that they are offered within the framework of the COVID-19 environment.”

He also said under the new modus-operandi, health workers should have adequate Protective Personal Equipment (PPE), adequate sanitisation, adequate physical distancing is observed and clients should be protected in the same manner.

“We don’t think this is an issue which will go away in a short time. Our services are now being adjusted to make sure they are now being done in the new COVID-19 environment. Its actually HIV programs in the COVID-19 environment, so this is how we are working now and as of the second quarter, we are resuming services and we will be trying to work within the new framework,” said Dr Madzima.

Meanwhile, in other countries in the region such as South Africa, the Gauteng province Health department reported that at least 11 000 people living with HIV failed to access Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) medications since their lockdown started up to the month of May.

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