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Cyclone Ida & HIV: Beira is Struggling in Both Ways…

By Ashok Ramsarup :: Mozambique has a daunting medical task ahead of them after Cyclone Ida struck the port city of Beira two months ago. The country is now facing humongous challenges after  Cyclone Idai destroyed buildings and the infrastructure of health centres, as a result, most of the facilities are almost non-existent.

Beira which is the fourth largest city in Mozambique where one in six adults lives with the dreaded  HIV disease.

The internationally acclaimed Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) now have their work cut off and will work doubly hard to restart the HIV programme that had been in operation since 2014.  It focuses on the most vulnerable members of this community – sex workers.

Doctors Without Borders has emphasized that there was a loss of follow-up of most of the patients living with HIV and some urgently needed to be back on treatment as soon as possible.

The organization says the specific health issue in extremely high prevalence HIV areas must be fully built into the post-disaster responses as a fundamental and integral activity.  If the focus is purely on acute needs such as cholera, shelter and food, and if HIV is not adequately addressed, the consequence could be a deadly surge of advanced HIV, says health organization.

MSF’s HIV activities were acutely disrupted, but the team is working feverishly to get the program up and running with speed after the cyclone, and fortunately, the full program is bearing fruit currently in the cyclone-hit area.

Doctors Without Borders are currently focusing on tailored packages of preventive and therapeutic HIV and SRH healthcare (including PreP – Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) for key populations (sex workers and MSM – men who have sex with men), through a combination of mobile, fixed site, integrated or standalone activities in hotspots and health centres. These services are led by ‘peer’ sex workers or MSM who are employed and trained to work with MSF as health educators and mobilisers, to improve the accessibility of services. For the key populations the element of the project, the comprehensive package of care includes HCT, Sexually Transmitted Infections, TB screening, CD4 counts / Viral Load; Family Planning, PreP, PEP, SGBV sensitisation, Terminal of Pregnancy referral, advanced HIV screening, Hepatitis B screening and vaccination, condom and lubricant promotion and distribution, and referral.

The humanitarian health organization are also treating advanced HIV in the Emergency Unit of Beira Central Hospital and in Munhuava health centre through a simplified model of intervention with rapid diagnosis and immediate initiation of management. The main objective is to reduce in-hospital mortality and develop a simplified model of care for advanced HIV patients.

Ashok Ramsarup is a senior award-winning journalist of South Africa.

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