Reaching Hiv/Aids Participants During COVID-19 Pandemic

Speeches Shim

Monday, June 1, 2020


Virtual programming during COVID19 pandemic lockdown successfully supports HIV prevention and treatment services

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Karabo-ea-Bophelo (KB) project in Lesotho remains committed to continuing essential HIV prevention and treatment services for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) and their caregivers, while maintaining a safe healthcare environment for KB staff. In order to meet this commitment, HIV services were adapted to virtual programming, where participants were reached using Radio, TV, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, caseworkers and social workers started calling participants on the phone where children could be exposed to social and economic challenges.

For various reasons there’s an assumption that it may be harder to get antiretroviral therapy (ART) and monitor one’s HIV status through viral load monitoring during the COVID 19 lockdown. This issue affected people who did not have family members or peers that could support them and provide them with the correct information. 

One example is that of an eight year old girl living with HIV and also a participant in the KB’s program and could not personally meet with her caseworker to share the good news about her recent viral load test results which indicated the suppression of the virus in her body. All this happened after the caseworker who ensures that she takes her treatment regularly, referred her to a health facility for the viral load test. The young girl is very grateful to the telephone contact she has with the caseworker who also gave her further information about receiving HIV services to keep improving her viral load. 

It is services such as this virtual contact with participants, that not only make service delivery possible and continuous, but also very importantly provides the psychosocial support needed by participants. This virtual contact has been important to KB and its associates to ensure that participants vulnerable to domestic violence, lack of access to ART treatment and other challenges can be reached. 

Overall, the participants were deeply pleased to receive calls from KB, they expressed their confidence in the project as it was always there in the absence of home visits. Others appreciated reminder calls to ART adherence, and families felt the parenting messages through SMSs have encouraged them to rebuild family relations.