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Zambart community health counsellors learn sign language to offer HIV treatment & prevention services to more people

International-Awareness-Week-for-the-DEAF-017It was International Awareness Week for the Deaf from September 18 through 25, 2017 and Zambart’s largest on-going study, the HPTN 071/PopART trial participated in the commemorations spearheaded by the Zambia National Association for the Deaf (ZNAD). The activities were aimed at highlighting the skills and challenges of the hearing impaired people in local communities, places of work, and public spaces.

Prior to the commemoration, a Zambart research team  in Kanyama, Lusaka, one of the study communities, decided to create more impact to assist more people access the life-saving HIV antiretroviral treatment  (ART) and prevention services, and contribute to their quality of lives.  Kanyama is one of the 12 communities for Zambart’s largest clinical trial – the HPTN 071 (PopART) study. Six members of the PopART intervention team from Kanyama site were among the 17 students that completed basic training in sign language. The Kanyama PopART lay health counsellors called Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs) become the second group to integrate sign language into their house-to-house HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC) delivery.

International-Awareness-Week-for-the-DEAF-018Kanyama District Intervention Coordinator (DIC) Louis Mwape, said field teams were motivated to take the sign language course because they encounter hearing and speech impaired people in the community and fail to communicate with them.  “We have many cases where our CHiPs meet clients who only understand sign language, and until now we only had one counsellor who had undergone basic sign language training and she would often be called upon to help her colleagues. The hospital also called her to help with communication between medical personnel and deaf patients. This was affecting her work in her zone.”

In 2015, the PopART intervention team in Makululu, Kabwe (Central Province), also adopted a similar strategy in order to include the hearing and speech impaired people in the community with the PopART intervention package.

The skills acquired by the CHiPs will also be extended to Kanyama First Level Hospital where PoPART study clients access various HIV and TB treatment and prevention services. The CHiPs will assist hearing and speech impaired patients including those referred to the hospital through the PopART intervention. “In this way, PopART will work in line with the theme for this year “Full Inclusion with Sign Language,” said Mwape.

International-Awareness-Week-for-the-DEAF-034Mwape said the training center for the hearing impaired has requested the Zambart team in Kanyama to send CHiPs to the facility and offer HCT services and link into care clients there with speech and hearing impairment. He added that the teams’ services will now be more comprehensive as they intensify the intervention mop up.

PopART Intervention Manager of Volunteer Medical Male Circumcision and TB, Ephraim Sakala, explained that Zambart in its work and activities desired to ensure that all people receive health services regardless of their condition. “The hearing impaired people need information on HIV/AIDS and TB so that they also can make informed decision on their health.” He said the knowledge and skills acquired by CHiPs in Basic Sign Language will help PopART study reach more people who may have been neglected through dissemination of awareness raising information.

At the site where the commemorations event was held, the PopART erected a tent from where they conducted HCT services and provided health information to over 40 people.

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Community Engagement Award

The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 2017 annual meeting brought together researchers from its clinical trials involved in HIV prevention in countries across the world. Zambart, is part of a consortium of international researchers currently conducting the world’s largest HIV prevention trial in 21 communities in Zambia and South Africa.

The Zambart Community Engagement (CE) team on the HPTN 071(PopART) Trial won the Best Community Engagement Award for outstanding performance in mobilising the biggest community randomised HIV prevention study in the world. During the course of the four year study, Zambart’s CE team has developed novel strategies to engage, sustain, and work together with other study groups to increase participants for the trial, including ancillary studies nested with the main trial.

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World TB Day 2016

On March 24, 2016, Zambart joined the rest of the country in commemorating World TB Day. Across different study sites in Lusaka, Copperbelt and Southern provinces, Zambart staff under the on-going HPTN 071 (PopART) study engaged in different awareness – raising activities in the local communities.

PopART-ART-Interevntion-ManagerPopART study Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs) distributed condoms, conducted TB screening and sputum collection, community HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) mostly targeted at adolescents and men.  They also sensitised the communities on TB stigma, TB management, infection control and prevention.

Tents were mounted in select areas where CHiPs were positioned to specifically target the youth and adolescents.

TB Corner staff and Community Advisory Board Members (CAB), PopART study implementing partners and district health staff in some study sties, joined the CHiPs in the community awareness-rising campaigns.

Zambart staff took the lead and screened for TB first as well breaking down barriers by submitting sputum for examination.

Communities in all the PopART study intervention sites were involved in the World TB day commemorative activities. These include: Chimwemwe and Ndeke in Kitwe; Chifubu in Ndola; Makululu in Kabwe, Kanyama and Chipata in Lusaka, and Maramba and Dambwa in Livingstone.

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Zambart donates to community HIV project to mark International Women’s Day 2016

Zambart management and staff visited the HEAL (HIV Empowered And Living) Project in Lusaka’s Ngombe compound, to commemorate World Women’s Day 2016 which fell on Tuesday, March 8.

Supporting Zambart management’s Community Social Responsibility effort, members of staff donated assorted items of clothing, bedding, school supplies and food-stuff to the HEAL Project community school.

In February 2016, Zambart also donated computers to the community school aimed at supporting computer based learning at the school.

“Zambart has identified your community school and would like to make a small donation of 8 used computers towards your commendable initiative aimed at providing and improving education for the underprivileged in your community,” Zambart CEO Dr Alwyn Mwinga, said in her message to HEAL project director Jeannie Mulenga.

The HEAL Project is a community-based project supporting and educating vulnerable children—mostly orphans, and people living with HIV. The school has about 300 students attending pre-school through grade 7. The community school also offers craft, gardening, and doubles as HIV counselling testing and counselling centre to the community members.

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University Teaching Hospital Conducts QA in HIV testing in PopART Study

Zambart, contracted the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Virology Laboratory, under Ministry of Health to conduct external Quality Assurance (QA) in HIV proficiency testing for all the 459 HIV counselors under the on-going HPTN 071/PopART study.
The UTH’s virology department is the only HIV rapid testing certifying institution under Ministry of Health and was contracted to give an independent assessment on HIV proficiency testing. Of the 459 PopART counselors, 444 were tested out of which 94 percent scored a 100 percent mark — the required pass mark, while 6 percent failed the test.

“The main objective of this activity was to have an independent and credible institution cross examine the counsellors in HIV proficiency testing, assessing if HIV rapid testing is correctly done and results are accurately interpreted,” said Comfort Phiri Musonda, the PopART study HTC QA/QC manager.
This was the first time Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs) and other counsellors under the study were tested for HIV proficiency externally. The activity was conducted in third quarter of 2015.
Ms Musonda reported that, “97 percent of all HIV testing counselors in PopART study were tested, and overall they performed well especially that this was the first time to perform this type of test.”

However, annual HIV proficiency testing is conducted internally using liquid plasma. Ms Musonda said, “This exercise helps to assess the ability of an HIV testing counsellor to perform the test correctly as per outlines or SOP and interpret results accurately.”

Counselors that failed the proficiency testing QA will not be permitted to perform any client testing until they are re-trained and pass the second external QA.  Ms Musonda explained that all the counselors that failed the external QA HIV Proficiency testing would have to undergo additional training.

In the re-training, individual attention will be paid to, “Determine HIV rapid test outline; Unigold HIV rapid test outline; use of national HIV testing algorithm; interpreting HIV test results; and finger prick HIV rapid testing procedure, after which they will be re-assessed in external QA HIV proficiency,” she said.

Ms Musonda, said she would continue to discuss HIV testing procedures with the PopART District Intervention Coordinators and CHiP supervisors during her quarterly site visits, while the DIC and CHiP supervisors will include HIV rapid testing procedure to their agenda items during monthly intervention meetings.

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Zambart Joins National VCT Day Commemoration – 2015

On June 30th, 2015, Zambart joined the rest of the country to commemorate the annual National Voluntary and Testing and Counselling Day aimed at raising uptake of VCT services to accelerate HIV prevention in the country. National VCT Day also provides Zambia with the opportunity to increase access to and awareness on HIV information and prevention measures.
Zambart through its various research programmes collaborates extensively with the government through the ministry of health, and ministry of community development, mother and child health. Staff under Zambart’s on-going HPTN 071/PopART study, an HIV prevention trial, joined district health teams and other stakeholders in community level sensitisation and awareness creation activities.

Commemorated under the theme “Universal access to annual HIV counselling and testing”, PopART study teams, mobilised themselves and joined efforts to use this opportunity to raise community awareness on the importance of VCT and other HIV treatment and prevention efforts. The PopART team’s activities saw them distribute nearly 140,000 condoms across all sites.
In Kabwe, Zambart participated in the march past and health race from which PopART staff scooped two awards for winning the 50-meter dash. Zambart was the largest provider of VCT services at the commemoration venue in Katondo compound, outside Makululu. In a bid to raise the study’s profile among the community and statkeholders, the team also managed to get PopART study chitenge to adorn the official high table.

“Setting up the information desk table with a staff to receive clients placed outside the tent, gave us the great advantage and chance to deliver the information extensively,” said PopART District Intervention Coordinator, Prince Mweemba. He said 79 clients tested for HIV, of which 44 were males while 35 were female.

And in Livingstone, PopART study staff together with Community Advisory Board members sensitised communities satellite activities in Maramba and Dambwa, two of the PopART study sites. At the official district commemorations held at the Civic Center, PopART staff distributed fliers, male and female condoms, and offered free VCT services at the Zambart stand.  At the occasion, Livingstone District Task Force Chairperson expressed concern at the low uptake of VCT levels in the district, which has the highest HIV prevalence rate in Zambia at 23.5 per cent.

Clement Mwikamui, PopART study District Administrator for Livingstone, reported that, “Zambart participation at this year’s event was well coordinated and was appreciated by the District AIDS Task Force, the District Community Medical Officer and other stake holders and members of the public who passed through our stand to find out about our activities and undergo VCT.”

Meanwhile in Kitwe, Zambart took the lead role in offering HIV testing services during the main commemoration event held at Chimwemwe’s Kamunga station. The PopART team established the VCT Technical Committee comprising intervention, PC, and community engagement staff to spearhead the planning for activities for each of the study sites in Kitwe.
“Our objective was to increase testing uptake for local and external community members with a special focus on those community members that did not test during our annual round one,” explained PopART study District Administrator for Kitwe, Delgracious Chansa.

Mr Chansa, said the VCT commemoration has now opened additional doors of partnership with other stakeholders who will be part of the annual round two implementation such as Nkana College of Education, located in the heart of Chimwemwe, an Arm A site and accommodates more than 500 students who are mainly based in the community for three years.  The PopART team managed to distribute more than 36,200 condoms at the event.

In Ndola, the VCT day event was held in Mushili area, at Kaloko primary school. The Ndola PopART team distributed condoms to participants who welcomed this free condom distribution.
“The response from the members of the community was overwhelming and condoms were finished in a short while,” reported Wisdom Chansa, PopART District Intervention Coordinator (DIC) for Ndola.
CHiPs supported other stakeholders at the event with the counselling process, and gave health education talks based on the PopART study approach. A total number of 10,260 condoms were distributed by the end of the event.
In Lusaka, Chipata PopART site held satellite VCT activities from June 25 through 27th. The activities included on-site counselling and testing, condom distribution, and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC). The site also took time to sensitise the clients on PopART.

Meanwhile Kanyama PopART site conducted various outreach activities in various parts of Kanyama PopART catchment zones from June 26th to 30th. The team conducted sensitization on HIV Counselling and Testing, distributed condoms and flyers.
On VCT day, Chipata and Kayama sites teamed up to participate in the event held at Olympia Africa and provided on-site mobile VCT services. The team distributed nearly 50,000 condoms in their satellite activities and on VCT day.

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Zambart Commemorates International Condom Day 2015

Zambart joins LOVE Condoms Campaign

Zambart joined local HIV stakeholders to mark the global 2015 International Condom Day which was held under the theme ‘Condoms are Cool’. The event held annually on February 13 on the eve of Valentine’s Day – February 14, is organised by the AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF) to promote safe sex through widespread access, usage and acceptance of condoms as a vital component of the global fight against the AIDS pandemic.

In Zambia, the event attracted participation from the National AIDS Council (NAC), Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health (MCDMCH), local HIV non-governmental organisations, students from higher learning institutions such as the University of Zambia, National Institute of Public administration (NIPA) and Evelyn Hone College.

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International Condom Day

MCDMCH minister Emerine Kabanshi, the Guest of Honour at the event and said government planned to double the procurement of antiretroviral drugs and improve service delivery infrastructure.  AIDS awareness activities characterised the event, which included live performances by local performing artists. Rapid HIV testing, accompanied by condom distribution and other HIV prevention services were also offered on-site by various organisations at the event.

Zambart teams from Kanyama and Chipata sites who included PopART intervention manager, district intervention coordinator, social science research assistants, Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPS) and their supervisors, took the opportunity to do some outreach work for the on-going HPTN 071/PopART study which is testing the impact of a combined package of several HIV prevention interventions at the community level on HIV transmission.  Condom distribution to households and the community in intervention sites is part of the PopART study intervention package.

Created in 2008, International Condom Day is a campaign that seeks to put an estimated 20 million HIV positive people on ART by 2020. AHF wants sexually active people to consistently use condoms to help reduce the risk of new HIV infections.