Ms. Patience Mwanza Sikwewa
(in charge of HIV program at st francis mission hospital, Katete, Zambia).

Have you contributed to transforming ‘hopelessness’ into ‘hope’ for millions of people?

St francis hospital HIV/AIDS Program is one of the great successes in the eastern province of Zambia that has contributed to transforming “hopelessness” into “great hope” to the affected.
Between 1990s and 2005, the hospital HIV/AIDS program was largely funded from UK (FoSH-chaired by Dr. James Cairns) and from Scottish Borders Action AIDS Group (led by Dr. Sandie Logie). Since ART drugs were not available, HIV related morbidity and mortality levels were very high in communities. Moreover, when a client tested HIV positive, doctors would say, “tell the patient that s/he has AIDS and that there is no cure”. This was equivalent to pronouncing a death sentence on a patient and consequently, many died, not only due to HIV infections, but also to hopelessness, fear and stigma that gripped communities.

When the PEPFAR/CDC funded program began in 2005, through CRS/AIDSRelief, the ART program rapidly expanded and treatment services availed to a huge number of patients in the whole eastern province. Great hope came to the affected individuals, families and communities. By December 2014, the hospital had 23,000 patients ever enrolled on ART and above 8,500 active patients on ART. Due to the ART program, morbidity and mortality levels have declined significantly in the past 10 years, thanks to the USA Government PEPFAR sponsored program.

The HIV/AIDS Program team leader (Ms. Patience Mwanza Sikwewa) says, “Today, many patients have accepted their status, live normal lives and participate in national development largely because of the great hope and confidence that there is treatment for HIV/AIDS and that like any other non-curable disease (hypertension-HBP, diabetes, cancer, etc), all it needs is the proper management of our lives. We see HIV clients everyday and they are as normal and productive as any other person and openly share their HIV conditions, with very little fear or shame. They treat HIV the way they treat high blood pressure or diabetes. Stigma is gone, and so is high morbidity and mortality”.

What were our achievements by December 2014?

  • Counseled and tested 6,828 clients for HIV in 2014 as compared to 5,732 in 2013.
  • About 1, 014 clients were put on ART in 2014 and 10% of them were children.
  • We attended to all the 8,583 clients current on ART and seen a cumulative of 23,202 ART clients by the end of 2014.

What are our major challenges?

  • Inadequate staffing: instead of 1:15 staff-patient ratio, the ratio on outreach is 1:70.
  • Inadequate room space for provision of VMMC and TB management, which cause congestion and poor quality of service. Lack of funds hinders expansion of infrastructure.
  • Frequent breakdown of old diagnostic equipments in radiology and laboratory (Full Blood Count & Chemistry Machines), hinders effective managment of ART services.

Inadequate transport for outreach programs. We have 2 landcruisers, instead of 3-4 to cater for the 5 main programs (ART, PMTCT, VMMC and HCT plus TB/HIV). This compels us to reduce outreach programs; hence neglecting clients living in remote areas.

I hereby appeal to well wishers to contribute donations towards transforming hopelessnes into great hope for the millions of the affected people in disdavantaged communities.