Through Right to Care, USAID provides antiretrovirals (ART) to nearly 17,000 clients within the Copperbelt region of Zambia. Due to this endeavour by USAID, HIV patients who are adhering to their daily regimen are able to live full lives and plan for the future.
The recent implementation of a Community Dispensing Unit (CDU) infrastructure and the introduction of a mobile application for drug dispensing has greatly enhanced access to medication and healthcare around Ndola. Stable patients can now access medical services through a Contact Center, and can receive their medication in the community, instead of queuing at the clinic. The main advantage of this is improved adherence, as the CDU has made it easy for people to stay on their ARVs. However, an additional advantage of keeping care in the community, through these decentralized models, is that patients are able to connect with each other and form supportive groups, namely Adherence Clubs, whilst still remaining connected to their healthcare providers.
Valerie, an HIV positive patient herself, volunteers her time to assist Right to Care in mentoring patients at the Ndola-based clinic and in the surrounding suburbs. Due to the introduction of the community dispensing scheme, she is able to meet with patients in these areas and provide psychological support where necessary.
She says “I’ve been volunteering at the Chipokota Myamba Clinic for the past year. I mentor 78 HIV+ men and women to ensure they’re adhering to their regimen. I provide encouragement and real-life advice because I’ve been in their shoes. I’ve been down the path they’re traveling – a path of depression, rejection and lost hope. But it doesn’t need to be like that.”
She continues, “I volunteer in this project because I want others to know they can live healthy lives if they take their ART tablets daily and eat well. They will be able to provide for their families, protect their sexual partners, and have children who are HIV negative. Life can be lived to the fullest.”
This Community Dispensing Unit innovation stands out in the country and through examples like this other countries like Myanmar, Haiti and the Ukraine, are working with USAID to embrace the ART Adherence Club model and to decentralize HIV care, making it easy for people to keep up with their daily medication and to meet and connect with each other.