HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, three of the largest causes of disability and death in sub-Saharan Africa, are preventable and treatable. We prevent new infections through education and immunization, and build reliable health systems that can treat patients with quality care, especially in poor, rural and urban communities.Without a strong health system, a swift and effective response to public health emergencies is not possible and can have devastating results on entire communities, as witnessed by the recent outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases.
Stopping the Ebola Epidemic in Guinea
In March 2014, the spread of the Ebola virus throughout West Africa was officially declared an epidemic by the World Health Organization. To date, there have been more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, making it the largest Ebola outbreak ever. A major challenge to stopping the spread of the virus faced by the Guinean government and other organizations has been resistance from communities and the absence of control strategies that worked hand-in-hand with the communities and prioritized their concerns, needs, and contribution.
Ma Souma, an Ebola surviror, speaks at a community awareness-building meeting. (Photo: Amref Health Africa)
Since late 2014, with generous support from the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program and an anonymous donor, Amref Health Africa has been working with the Guinean government and our partners to bring the number of Ebola cases to zero and ensure its complete eradication. So far, Amref Health Africa has trained over 540 members of community-based organizations in Guinea to teach their friends, families and neighbors about Ebola and what they can do themselves to stop the spread of the virus.
Together with other community members such as traditional leaders, they conduct home visits and hold meetings in weekly markets and other public gathering spaces to reach more people. Amref Health Africa is also strengthening the capability of local health workers to identify potential cases of Ebola and ensure that those patients receive the care they need. Victoriously, the WHO announced the end of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea in late December 2015, but this does not dampen the need for on-going case-finding and community support. In the long-run, Amref Health Africa is repairing trust within the communities and improving the health system so that it can serve all peoples’ health needs beyond this devastating epidemic.
Refresher Course in Essential Laboratory Services (RCELS)
Without an accurate diagnosis of medical conditions like HIV, how can someone seek proper treatment? In rural sub-Saharan Africa, this remains a major challenge in ending preventable deaths from infectious diseases and outbreaks. Most laboratories where blood samples are sent for diagnosis are underfunded, lack basic equipment and are short on fully skilled staff and management.
The RCELS is held in Nairobi, Kenya each year and was created to strengthen laboratory diagnostics by upgrading the skills of lab technologists in essential lab tests such as malaria microscopy and TB and HIV screening. The 12-week course targets lab technicians from remote and under serviced regions that don’t normally have access to affordable lab training.
Implemented from 2008-2013, Angaza Zaidi was the largest HIV prevention, testing and counselling program in all of Tanzania, providing services across all regions of the mainland. The program was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The program's goal was to prevent the spread of HIV through mass testing to increase the number of Tanzanians who knew their status. To achieve this, Amref Health Africa increased the quality and coverage of HIV testing and counseling (HTC), treatment and prevention services; reinforced the capacity of local organizations to provide those services, and established community support groups for men and women who tested positive.
To date, Amref Health Africa has helped over 2.6 million Tanzanians learn their HIV status. More than 10 million people were reached with HIV prevention messages and 150,000 HIV-positive individuals were identified and linked to treatment through high quality HTC services.
"I’m remarried to an HIV negative woman and we now have three healthy HIV negative children who are nine, seven and three."
Venice Simon, Post-Test Club Secretary living with HIV