THE Game-Changer program that was being implemented by Zvandiri, through a five year US$20 Million grant support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID and the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) has resulted in the consistent uptake of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) has attained 94% Viral Load (VL) suppression.
By Michael Gwarisa
Among some of the key achievements of the Fame Changer project include a Viral Load (VL) Coverage of 74% (6800/9191) and cumulatively, Zvandiri supported 412 health facilities on the Game Changer grant with over 1000 health care workers receiving on site mentorship to deliver quality paediatric and adolescent HIV services. Currently, the Zvandiri model has been adopted by 11 countries in the region with over 3000 peer counsellors supporting 96000 young people delivering health happiness and hope.
Speaking during the Game Changer Grant Close Out event in Harare, Mrs Getrude Ncube, the HIV Prevention Coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the Zvandiri Game Changer grant had pushed Zimbabwe closer to attain all the three 95s in children and adolescents.
The Game Changer grant was successfully implanted by Zvandiri in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other government line ministries. This is a model that has shown through research and data driven programs to improve across HIV cascade of care including case finding, linkages to care and viral load monitoring.
“Over the years as a country, we have actually been struggling with viral load monitoring for our adolescents, for our young people and all that. With the support of the Zvandiri peers, we have written a different story if you look at our viral load suppression among these people. All this has contributed to the overall goal of making sure that by 2030, Zimbabwe would have achieved epidemic control” said Mrs Ncube.
Apart from HIV, the program also looked at addressing the growing mental health burden bedeviling adolescents and young people living with HIV and the efforts according to Mrs Ncube all contribute towards epidemic control in Zimbabwe.
USAID Deputy Health Office Director, Michelle Kouletio said the Zvandiri model has really made a difference in the lives of children, adolescents and young people living with HIV.
“In 2017 at the start of the PEPFAR support to Zvandiri, children, particularly adolescents were facing huge HIV challenges in regards to being tested, getting appropriate medical care and treatment. We are really celebrating the great work that Zvandiri has achieved over the past five years and to take stock of the great work that happened over the period. Zvandiri’s highly tailored peer led intervention has positively impacted the lives of more than 50, 000 children and adolescents and young people living with HIV and AIDS,” said Kouletio.
She also paid tribute to the outstanding work that was demonstrated by the Community Adolescents Treatment Supporters (CATS) towards attainment of several milestones with indications that there is a network of over 1,000 young people who are foot soldiers promoting public health interventions.
Under the Game changer program, the Number of newly diagnosed HIV cases (0-24 years) through Zvandiri support (index case mechanism) were 3561. The number who got reactive results through HIVST were 1011, while individuals (0-24 years) who were identified, supported by CATS and tested using index testing services and received their results were 45101. New Positives were 3561 and the number of individuals (16-24 years) who received HIV self-test kits distributed by CATS were 24250. The number of clients get a reactive result after HIV Self-Testing were 1011.
Meanwhile, Zvandiri Executive Director, Nicola Willis said the Zvandiri model recognises that to achieve the 95-95-95, there is need to address multiple domains in young people’s lives.
“We do this through seven pillars. While supporting care led service is a key element of Zvandiri, it’s supposed to be backed up by strengthening the evidence for paediatric and adolescents service delivery, youth led advocacy, supporting global and national guidelines through development, capacity building for the workforce across mental health, Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), disability, child protection, strengthening families and communities and of course underpinned by robust effective partnerships,” said Willis.
not less than 1,166 young people living with HIV have been trained and mentored by Zvandiri and the Ministry as Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters.
“45K young people were identified, supported and tested through index testing services and received their result, 3561 were positive. Over 24K young people received HIV self test kits with 1011 confirmed positive. The numbers are one thing, but I want to highlight the extraordinary dedication, courage and skills it takes for young people 18-19 years old, to go in to homes, and facilities and talk with young people, and their caregivers about HIV testing. But because they do, we see what a difference it makes in terms of improving access to testing and treatment for young people.”
Further, over 1000 health care workers have been mentored and supported by Zvandiri Mentors to strengthen child and adolescent sensitive services. We thank them, for their immense commitment, always going the extra mile, endless patience and for tolerating our endless requests.