Aug. 20 2015

ICAP Expands Fight Against HIV and TB in Lesotho and Swaziland

Memorandum of Understanding Builds on Previous Success in Region Hardest Hit by HIV

On Tuesday, the government of Swaziland signed a memorandum of understanding with ICAP, a major research center located at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, to expand an ongoing partnership to fight HIV and tuberculosis. The agreement builds on ICAP efforts in Swaziland and Lesotho, two landlocked countries within South Africa with among the highest rates of HIV in world; approximately one in four people has HIV, and many are co-infected with TB.

In Swaziland, Dean Linda P. Fried and ICAP Director Wafaa El-Sadr joined senior government officials for a signing ceremony to formalize plans to enlarge HIV and TB efforts in the hard-hit Manzini region, provide technical assistance to laboratories, and build research capacity. The joint effort, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), amplifies ongoing ICAP-supported work to decentralize health services to reach the 80-percent of the country that lives in rural areas.

In Lesotho, the country’s top health official, ‘Molotsi Monyamane, acknowledged five years progress by ICAP, praising efforts with the Lesotho Ministry to integrate TB and HIV services at every level of the health system—from supporting the development of national guidelines to mentoring individual health workers in clinics. Over the last 18 months, one project more than doubled the number tested for HIV, linked to HIV care, and treated.

Separately, Dean Fried met with U.S. Ambassador Matthew Harrington to discuss the success of these efforts, funded by the President’s Emergency Response for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the CDC, as well as future priorities. Fried and El-Sadr visited with first class of students enrolled in a new one-year post-bac in midwifery at the Scott Hospital School of Nursing, one of five such programs at Lesotho nursing schools spearheaded by ICAP through the PEPFAR-supported Nurse Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI). The schools each received upgrades to classrooms and new computer and simulation labs. Building ranks of midwives will expand availability of Option B+, which provides antiretroviral treatment to pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV.

Speaking at an ICAP event, Fried addressed another issue of global importance: the growing numbers of older people. The speech, “Preparing for Health Across Longer Lives: Creating a Win for All Ages,” which attendees described as eye opening, underlined the value of older people and their contributions to the health and well being of societies, as well as the importance of ensuring healthy aging at all stages of the life-span.

In Swaziland at the conclusion of her visit, Dean Fried noted, “the work done by ICAP in both countries is simply remarkable. The commitment, partnerships, and innovations give me confidence that these countries are on the path to overcome not only the HIV and TB epidemics, but other current and future health threats.”