Improvement of health of People Living with HIV (PLHIV), stigma, medication fatique, religious and traditional beliefs are among factors that made many PLHIV stop receiving lifelong treatment making adherence to HIV care a major challenge. The National AIDS Control Program (NACP) Quarterly report Data show that by December 2012, there were 129,372 PLHIV who were loss to follow up HIV treatment (LTFUs) in Tanzania, 29,827 out of them were from the TUNAJALI supported regions; Iringa, Njombe, Morogoro, Singida and Dodoma.
To deal with this challenge, as caring people we designed an initiative dubbed ‘Back to Treatment ’ to follow up PLHIV those who had stopped utilizing those life-saving services and bring them back to care in the regions that we support. The initiative was launched at Ipogolo, Iringa, on September 25, 2012 by the H E American Ambassador to Tanzania, Alfonso Lenhardt.
Although designed by TUNAJALI, the initiative is implemented by health facilities in collaboration with CSOs through trained community volunteers. In Iramba district, Singida region, a total of 505 PLHIV registered at health facilities stopped receiving services. SEMA, a sub-recipient and a Singida-based CSO was then tasked to trace through her community volunteers.
SEMA brainstormed on how best they could do their tracing effectively and involvement of HIV positive community volunteers was seen as a good starting point. “They know each other because as colleagues they (PLHIV) meet at CTCs (Care and Treatment Centres) making it is easy for them to know those who miss their appointments,” says Rachel Sedute, the SEMA Home Based Care Focal Point.
The list of PLHIV who are loss to follow up (LTFUs) from Kidaru, Kiomboi, Mgongo, Doromoni, Kisisiri, Ulemo, Misigiri and Ndago CTCs was looked at and divided among eight volunteers for follow up. After six weeks of hard work, they managed to trace whereabouts of all 505 LTFUs. “It is now established that 197 out of these migrated while other 112 are dead and other 196 are indeed loss to follow up,” says Rachel.
She says 190 out of 196 LTFUs were (equivalent to 97 per cent) were brought back to treatment. “The volunteers are still working on bringing back to care the remaining six, and we are hopeful that they will also come back to care,” she says confidently.