Sunil and Homechand are both HIV Volunteer Counseling and Testing (VCT) counselors in the Berbice region of Guyana, one of the more developed and populated regions in the country. Despite major funding challenges in the region, Sunil and Homechand continue to demonstrate their commitment to combatting the epidemic and improving the health of the Berbice population, testing between 70 and 100 people each month for HIV.
We met Sunil and Homechand during a series of site visits we conducted in partnership with the Guyana Ministry of Health (MoH), as part of a two-week Monitoring and Evaluation process review of Guyana’s HIV case-based surveillance system. The MoH is prioritizing HIV/AIDS surveillance in an effort to obtain more robust data on the state of the HIV epidemic in Guyana, where an estimated 1.3% of the adult population is living with HIV. One year ago, in January of 2013, the MoH implemented an integrated HIV case-based surveillance system throughout the country, which brings together quality data from VCT, Care and Treatment (C&T) and Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission (PMTCT) programs to paint a complete picture of the national epidemic. NASTAD has been providing technical assistance and support to the MoH Surveillance Unit throughout the case surveillance system design, implementation, and evaluation processes, including supporting trainings on the new HIV Case Surveillance Form, and the development and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures.
In recent months NASTAD collaborated with the MoH Surveillance Unit and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to design and implement a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation process review of the year-old HIV case-based surveillance system. The process review allowed the MoH to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the system, as well as to identify future training opportunities for health care staff and administrators. This process review included site visits to key hospitals, health clinics, and testing centers throughout the country and discussions with nurses, case navigators, pharmacists, outreach workers, clinicians, and others, all working tirelessly to support people living with HIV (PLWH) in their communities.
The findings of the process review were encouraging. While many sites face funding and human resource challenges like those in Berbice, the young HIV case surveillance system has achieved a great amount in its first year. Cases are being reported to the MoH Surveillance Unit, and administrators at the national, regional, district, and site levels have committed to working together to further support and integrate the HIV case surveillance system in the coming months and years. The MoH Surveillance Unit has also organized a number of follow-up trainings to further build the capacity of staff at all levels of the system to contribute to timely and accurate HIV case reporting.
What is more, health workers like Sunil and Homechand demonstrate extraordinary commitment to both their communities and the greater health care system. The many staff we spoke with fully appreciate how a well-functioning HIV case-based surveillance system will help to inform HIV-related programs and interventions throughout Guyana. Through close collaboration with these staff, the MoH will use the results of this process review to continuously strengthen, expand, and integrate the HIV case surveillance system. We at NASTAD look forward to providing technical assistance and support to the MoH in Guyana as the system matures.
To learn more about what NASTAD is doing in Guyana to strengthen Strategic Information capacity and support the implementation of HIV case surveillance, please contact Anna Carroll.