Zambia is one of the countries adversely affected by HIV. HIV prevalence in the country stands at 12.7% with women being the worst affected. Despite the high levels of HIV cases in Zambia only about 40% of the population have undergone HIV testing to know their status.
One of the contributing factors to lack of HIV testing is the long distances to service delivery points especially in rural parts of the country. In response to this challenge, the Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Council has embarked on the ambitious UNAIDS fast track target dubbed as 90x90x90 with a view to halt the impact of HIV by the year 2030. Known for its effective response to HIV over the last 15 years, SAfAIDS has also joined the cause to complement government efforts in meeting the fast track targets. To this end, SAfAIDS is strengthening the community response towards the achievement of Fast Track Targets for Ending AIDS; through capacitating community leadership to champion the end of AIDS in Southern Africa by 2017. It is anticipated that by end of 2017 the project will contribute to increased uptake of HIV testing for all community members and access to ART referral for children, adolescence and pregnant women in four countries in Southern Africa to reach at least 90% of people within the targeted 15 communities by 2017. In Zambia the project is being implemented in Kafue district located 35KM from Lusaka the capital city of Zambia.
The project implementation has been in an accelerated gear since its inception in February 2017. The project has utilised innovative approaches in bring HIV testing services (HTS) as close to the people as possible by working with the gate keepers as champions of change. To date a total of nine Community Indabas have been convened in nine traditional communities. At each indaba onsite HTS services are provided. Impressively, on average about 400 people undergo HIV testing during each Indaba. So far 2,691 (1,515 Female, 1,176 Male) people have been reached with information while 2,504 got tested for HIV and received their results. This is remarkably about 93% of the people reached who got tested for HIV. Only 71 people tested positive, of which 49 were female and 22 were male.
The project has also been influential in the dissemination of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) messages to both women and men, the young and the old as depicted in the extract below:
“Thanks to the Rock 90 leadership programme brought by SAfAIDS that has educated our community through outreach programmes such as the Indabas held within the community, with the much needed services being provided to the people in the hard to reach areas. Through their dissemination of information, we have learnt that men and women ought to be well-informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control. Access to appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education programmes to stress the importance of women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth could provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. The advocacy for women to have control over and make decisions concerning their own sexuality, live a life free from violence and its consequences have yielded many results such as better child spacing, low teenage pregnancies and low mortality rates. I am very sure that as a result of this programme, men’s perception towards women are likely going to change for the better, they will treat women with dignity” Traditional Leader-SRH Champion
Figure 1 Women accessing health services indaba
Figure 2: Chieftainess Chiawa (seated) leading by example