ROOTS Africa, a young woman led organisation working towards the promotion of economic and social justice among young people in peri-urban, rural and mining communities says it is working with the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC) to integrate COVID-19 and HIV health interventions in Mazowe district by taking health services to people’s doorsteps.
By Michael Gwarisa
Mazowe district in Mashonaland Central province has a high HIV incidence in young women and girls as well as a high Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUPs) rate owing to rampart uncontrolled artisanal mining activities in the area.
In an interview with HealthTimes at the HER Voice Fund inception meeting in Harare, Roots Programs Officer, Junior Gambura said majority of health services were now biased towards COVID-19 and this threatened the success of other health interventions such as HIV and others.
We are implementing the HER Voice Fund in Mashonaland Central in Mazowe District. What we realised is that everyone is now running with COVID-19 and it was all about COVID-19. We thought we should integrate HIV and AIDS because it has been a pandemic and health challenge for years.
“A lot of people are vulnerable because many people are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) but they can’t access medications because of the lockdown restrictions and they couldn’t even travel because there were so many restrictions and stigma when they wanted to go to the local clinic or even the hospitals to get their medications. In most cases they were required to go to the District Administrator (DA) to get a letter which would grant them passage at roadblocks,” said Gambura.
She also bemoaned the accidental disclosure of young people’s HIV statuses at roadblocks. She said the integration services during the COVID-19 period which has seen them introduce mobile clinics had proven to be a functional too.
“In collaboration with the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC), we introduced mobile clinics where we took the clinic to the doorstep of the community. So we used the Ministry of Health mobile van and it would be packed with medication.
“Even for nursing mothers, we made sure that we also advanced primary health services to them during this period. They would get ART treatments, viral loads and also the HIV screening, testing and even treatment.”
She added that before the mobile clinics, so many people were defaulting on their medications as most health services were also lockdown.
“The mobile clinics have been very successful. We also realised that so many people have been defaulting on their medications due to the lockdown because these lockdown restrictions just came. It was more like a hit and run situation. They just said lets lockdown but they forgot there are people who rely on their medications whether there is a lockdown or not.
“Most of these people are informal traders, they rely on day to day funding in terms of getting income but due to the lockdown, they didn’t have the money to even get transport to go the hospital. That is when we realised that there was a need to bridge this gap and we said instead of people going to get services, why not bring the services to them,” said Gambura.
The mobile clinic services are conducted twice every week and Roots has taken the services to about 15 wards in Mazowe district. In order to reach men whose health seeking behaviour is very poor Roots also sponsors community football tournaments so as to capture the male constituency.
She however added that there was need to avail long term contraceptives for women as well as increasing volumes of female condoms for the sex workers.
Roots is amongst five other organisations that have received the HER Voice Fund to support, a grant meant to support the meaningful engagement and leadership of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) and community-based organizations who are serving AGYW, within Global Fund and other related national processes.