U.S. Ambassador congratulates EGPAF’s mobile clinic launch
With 25.1 percent prevalence of HIV, Gaza is the most heavily affected province of Mozambique, but the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and its partners are leading the fight to eliminate HIV from the region. On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Griffiths congratulated EGPAF on its work with the Provincial Direction of Gaza (DPS) to provide three mobile clinics aimed at increasing the availability of healthcare services in Gaza province and reaching Mozambique’s goal of 80 percent antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage by 2015. The mobile clinics will operate in the districts of Manjacaze, Bilene, and Chibuto, where healthcare coverage is dangerously low. By August, two more mobile clinics will be added in the districts of Guijá and Xai-Xai. These mobile clinics represent an overall investment of USD $1 million.
In his speech at the mobile clinic launch on Thursday, Ambassador Griffiths said that the United States government was pleased to finance the project and that EGPAF and the Ministry of Health (MOH) can maximize the investment’s potential and strengthen public health offerings in the most rural and inaccessible areas of Gaza.
“Many people in Gaza who need healthcare (don’t) have these services to save their lives because they live too far from the clinics or they can´t afford the transport to travel to the health facilities,” Griffiths said. “In some cases, the available clinics do not have enough space for the patients, or the staff (are) not qualified. These mobile clinics will be a solution to (many of) these problems.”
He encouraged community leaders to tell those who may need the services to visit the mobile clinics, which will be parked at district headquarters. Every two weeks, the mobile clinics will travel to one of the eight Peripheral Health Units in the province. The clinics will operate four days per week, visiting peripheral health facilities on a pre-scheduled basis (every 1-2 weeks) with full-time staff, including a clinical officer, nurse, lay counselors, and a driver/data entry clerk.
The concept of mobile clinics was conceived in response to the need to increase access to antiretroviral treatment, along with clinical male circumcision, HIV counseling, testing and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programs. The mobile clinics will provide HIV counseling and testing, psychosocial support; HIV care and treatment; basic laboratory services (such as testing for syphilis and malaria), and CD4 testing.
In his speech at the mobile clinic launch, EGPAF/Mozambique country director Fernando Morales said that the mobile clinics were made possible through the generosity of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“With these mobile clinics, we hope to attend (to) more people who do not have access (to) health facilities,” Morales said. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff involved (in) this initiative. Because of you, we are here today, and I am sure (we) will save many lives.”
Isabel Tila, director of tourism in Gaza representing Governor Raimundo Diomba at the event, told the crowd that the project represented a major contribution to Mozambique’s overall strategy to fight HIV/AIDS.
“We believe that, with the involvement of the population, public and private institutions, partners, and donors, we will fight the HIV epidemic … in Gaza,” Tila said.
The government administrator of Bilene district, Sara Guambe, received the keys to one of the mobile clinics and said that everything possible will be done to serve the communities that really need healthcare.
Arsenio Manhice is Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer for the Foundation, based in Mozambique.