For people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), knowing their status is the first step toward a longer, healthier life. In Zambia, 14 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV, and a third of those women are unaware that they have the virus, according to the Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA) survey led by ICAP at Columbia University, a global health center based at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
To increase the number of people who know their HIV status, ICAP in Zambia is using an innovative approach called “I-Surge” to accelerate progress. To do this, ICAP is working with the Zambian Ministry of Health and cadres of community-based volunteers to roll out intensive index case testing and partner notification services so the sexual partners of people newly diagnosed as HIV positive can be identified and encouraged to test as well. These efforts are supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Facilities using index HIV testing and partner notification services are accelerating case finding across ICAP-supported clinics in Zambia. For example, before I-Surge, only 10 percent of HIV cases at Lundazi Urban Clinic came from index texting, much lower than the 30 percent recommended by the CDC. Now, as of April 2019, the yield from index testing is 73 percent, with over 98 percent of newly diagnosed patients being linked to antiretroviral therapy (ART).
According to ICAP leaders, the investment in staff placement, training, and mentorship—as well as in overall health systems strengthening — is paying off, and helping to create a stronger health system and community network that will benefit Zambia for years to come.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on June 21