The project aims to provide people living in remote and hard reach communities along the Zambian shore line of Lake Tanganyika, NE Zambia, with access to health and HIV services.
The way of life in these lakeshore villages has changed little in the past 100 years and is very different from the town of Mpulungu where there is running water and electricity. Only 1% of the population are literate and the polygamy rate is very high. People have limited access to health and HIV services as a direct consequence of their geographical location.
Our partners are currently working in 10 villages where only one has a local Government clinic; another has a small poorly-resourced health post and the remainder have no health services. In these villages, Community Health Workers and Local Birth Attendants offer health care with little resources. Villagers must travel several hours by boat to the Ministry Of Health (MOH) Centre in Mpulungu to access health and HIV services.
There are many obstacles which prevent most from making this journey. Village life is dictated by fishing and as this is the primary source of income, being absent to access health and HIV services can have a direct impact on income generated. Cultural expectations and roles of women restrict their movement to leave the village. High financial costs associated with travelling to Mpulungu are another barrier to accessing these services.
It was recognised that the best way to meet the health needs of communities living along the Lake is to take a medical team and offer Primary Preventative Health clinics, health education and HIV services within the village itself. This includes HIV testing -so that a person can know their status, same day CD4 Cell Count testing for anyone found to be living with HIV - to enable the commencement of Antiretroviral Treatment (ART). This is done through the use of an approved portable machine. The main benefit is that it analyses a CD4 Cell Count from a finger stick blood test and gives a result in 20 minutes. (Normally this can take up to 2 days). So in 30 minutes, if a person tests positive for HIV, their CD4 Cell Count can be obtained and they can start Antiretroviral Treatment. Click here to understand more about the benefits of mobile CD4 Cell Count Testing.