On Thursday, 11 March 2021, the U.S.Chargé d’Affaires, Ms Jessica Long and Acting USAID Country Representative, Ms Michele Russell visited the Walvis Bay Corridor Group's (WBCG) Key Population (KP) Friendly Wellness Container Clinic in Oshikango. This was to familiarise themselves with the clinic's operations, the role of peer navigation and HIV prevention, care and treatment services targeting key populations and other vulnerable groups along the Walvis Bay corridors. The Ministry of Health and Social Services in partnership with the Key Population-Strengthening Technical Assistance and Response for Sustainable HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment (KP-STAR) consortium partners, including WBCG, under the leadership of IntraHealthNamibia with funding from PEPFAR through USAID is supporting the provision of clinical services at the WBCG clinics.
The clinic which is right at the Namibian/Angolan border serves as a referral point for key populations services to sustain access to HIV prevention services and commodities, sexual health and family planning services, prevention of gender-based violence and HIV counselling, testing and treatment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the continuous support and guidance of Case Managers, almost 100 female sex workers access health services and are tested for HIV each month at this facility.
During a sit down with the Chargé d’Affaires and the Acting USAID Country Representative, the Case Managers shared their experiences and how they supported the continuation of HIV services for key populations at the site and in the community. Case Managers work full time as part of a case management team and play an important role in supporting HIV-positive service beneficiaries throughout the cascade, including linking them to care and helping them attend diagnostic and clinical appointments and adhere to their treatment regimens.
Ms NdamonaShaumbwa, Case Manager for Oshikango, highlighted that COVID-19 has introduced her to new and creative ways to connect and support patients. “During COVID-19, I was forced to maximize the use of online services such as QuickRes – a website that allows clients to book appointments for health services in Namibia. Beyond COVID-19, this platform will be useful in securing the confidentiality of clients and the convenience of accessing services as it shortens waiting time. This is essential to maintain core HIV services and to support community engagement during physical distance,” she said. Ndamona also mentioned that the online platform helped her maintain contact with clients and reach new clients using not only the website but also social media and messenger apps as well. “This has allowed me to support my people living with HIV through virtual case management and clients did not have to go to the health facilities for screening because the website offers a risk assessment”.
Mr Shikulo Malakia, Case Manager, said that his clients could still have access to services during the pandemic because the MoHSS and WBCG established access points at the border for key populations to access health services. “The advanced decentralized distribution of ART and other medications were and continue to be critical for ensuring uninterrupted access to HIV services and reducing contact with clinics, as we continue with COVID-19 in our midst. The other strategy that we’ve used is peer educators delivering ART at homes and hotspots.” He also said that as a team, they identified drop-off locations where men who have sex with men and female sex workers can pick up condoms, lubricants, and HIV self-test kits.
Key populations are especially vulnerable to HIV service interruptions and additional harm during COVID-19, and it remains a priority to ensure they continue to have access to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services, as well as access to life-saving services.