Rwanda and Namibia are the only African countries which have registered tremendous progress in increasing HIV/Aids treatment access and care. According to a new UN report, antiretroviral coverage in Rwanda increased from 1 percent in 2003 to almost 60 percent in 2007. The report is a review of the progress in implementing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/Aids and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/Aids. The two countries’ success has been attributed to Government policies to strengthen health systems as well as human resource capacity to deliver prevention, treatment and care for people living with HIV/Aids.
Rwanda’s progress was achieved through a pilot intervention programme called “Task Shifting to Achieve Universal Access to HIV Care and Treatment in Rwanda”.
Initiated in April 2005, the programme authorised nurses to prescribe antiretroviral drugs, a practice initially only reserved for doctors.
Dr. Fabienne Shumbusho, the Deputy Director of Family Health International, Rwanda, told a global HIV/Aids Implementers’ Meeting in Kampala this week that the move to let nurses provide antiretroviral treatment services and prescribing 1st-line ART regimens was successfully implemented.
She said that that had made the programme effective in as far as responding to care and treatment of HIV positive patients was concerned.
“We don’t have enough medical doctors in our country but we have a large workforce of nurses so we decided to develop their capacities and put them in charge of more community programmes. Rwanda’s pilot programme has shown that it is possible to achieve universal access to Aids treatment by improving the skills of nurses,” Shumbusho told The New Times.
She noted that the Government of Rwanda had embarked on human capacity development, particularly in the health sector, through provision of bursaries to science students and salary increment of health workers.
“The Government has responded to the shortage of health workers in the country through increasing the intake of medical students at the National University of Rwanda, and retaining the staff through salary increment. It may take time but we hope with time this will address the problem,” she said.
It is said that more than 25 million of the estimated 33 million people living with HIV live in resource-limited areas characterized by weak and under-staffed health systems. Eighty-eight percent of Namibians in need of antiretroviral therapy were getting drugs in 2007.