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.