Ohangwena making strides on HIV/AIDS

• BY MARX ITAMALO

THE Ohangwena health directorate is making great strides on offering treatment to patients living with the HIV/AIDS, this according to health director John Hango. He spoke to Confidente when asked how far the region is in terms of offering the much needed treatment to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Hango said the directorate has made commendable improvements pertaining to the provision and administering of HIV/AIDS medication to patients in the region. 

According to him, all 36 health facilities in the region offer counselling, testing, and ARVs to HIV positive persons.

“All our clinics and hospitals give HIV counselling and testing to clients and initiate medication to HIV positive persons the same day and provide continuous ARV care to patients.”

Hango says when a person is diagnosed with HIV, the person is immediately put on treatment and later given a follow up date to go and collect their medicine. In case a patient fails to come collect their medicine on the appointment date, they are expected to come and get them as soon as possible on any day, he explained.

“The region has an outreach programme in each district for taking ARVs and other chronic conditions’ treatment to the people at their nearest outreach points which we call CCBHS (comprehensive community based health services) under  DSD (differentiated services delivery),” he noted.

Owing to the vulnerable economic situation in which many people find themselves in, Hango says patients have organised themselves in community adherence groups popularly known as CAGs, whereby one member collects medications for the whole group on their appointment date. This practice has improved the roll-out of the medication to patients especially living in rural communities, he stressed.

Despite, these arrangements Hango noted, there are still some people who miss out on their medication for reasons such as lack of transport money, lack of family support as well as the fact that some people find themselves some place else on the date of their appointment. He advised these people to always go and collect their medications as soon as the opportunity arrives.

Hango fired a warning shot to health workers who turn away patients seeking medical care because they do not have money. He said the practice is not allowed and all health facilities should provide health care to people whether they have money or not, as long as they communicate it to health workers.

“In case there is a health facility that is doing it, the hospital or regional management needs to be informed immediately, because it is not allowed. We can not turn away sick people without treating them because of the person’s inability to pay fees. We cannot do that,” he said adding as regional health director he was not aware of any case of that nature reported to his office.

Quizzed about the case of a molested minor who allegedly died of HIV/AIDS complications last month in Okongo and whose death in part is blamed on nurses at a local clinic who allegedly failed to test her for HIV at a request of a community member due to lack of HIV testing kits at a the said clinic, Hango morphed into defensive mode saying:

“About the patient at Olukula clinic, the collected information revealed that the patient was well managed as was supposed to be and tested HIV negative a few weeks prior to the last visit. During the last visit, the patient was managed and referred to the main Okongo hospital for further management and there was no indication for need for another test since she recently tested negative.”

Hango nonetheless pointed out that in rare instances, health facilities in the region find themselves with a low stock of HIV/AIDS medication which forces health workers to only give a one or two months supply of the drugs instead of the usual four to six supply.

“But we hardly find ourselves without ARVs at our facilities. We give sufficient medication to our patients to limit clinic visits which may be costly to them in terms of money and time,” he said.

According to Hango, 25 456 people are on HIV/AIDS treatment in the region.