THE Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) says the ZAMPHIA20 is an important survey that will have positive yields.
It says members of the public must be guaranteed that the exercise is aimed at improving their health by establishing their HIV status in their respective communities
TALC has commended the government through the Ministry of Health for having put on hold the implementation of the ZAMPHIA20 HIV Impact Population Survey on 12,000 randomly selected households countrywide.
National director Felix Mwanza said considering the happenings in the country of suspected ritual killings and gassing it was only noble that such an exercise was halted to safe guard the lives of those who will be involved in the implementation.
“However, though we welcome this development, we are of the view that suspending the entire exercise to allow for more sensitisation of the citizenly is not enough. What will greatly help during this period is the revisiting of all the implementation approaches to ensure that citizens have the confidence and trust in the exercise. This process will also ensure that communities own the programme,” he said.
“In order to achieve this, we should ensure that ‘politics’ are divorced from this exercise and that no ‘politician’ is allowed to take centre stage in the execution of ZAMPHIA20. The local community and community support structures should be involved as this is key in the success of ZAMPHIA20.”
Mwanza said as an organisation that has been doing community work in the health sector for a long time now, TALC advises both the Ministry of Health and implementing stakeholders to undertake measures that ensured community support structures such as the Neighborhood Health Committees were the ones that are in the forefront of implementing the exercise. Mwanza suggested engaging the three Church mother bodies (Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, Christian Council of Zambia and the Catholic Bishops) to demystify the myths surrounding collection of blood in the ZAMPHIA20 survey.
He also said due to the current prevailing environment, the government should ensure that the survey does not import labour from other areas and that locals to be engaged must be trained to ensure that confidentiality is upheld.
Mwanza said locals knew and understood the community and terrain well and their involvement would create community ownership of the intervention.
He said they should also make use of local community radios to disseminate ZAMPHIA20 information, let known local and non-political leaders appear on radio to promote ZAMPHIA20 and give the exercise a community voice, setup ZAMPHIA20 Independent Community Advisory Boards (ZCABs) to promote community participation and to ensure transparency and accountability by those conducting the survey, emphasis should not only be on collecting data and blood specimens but ensure that a clear defined linkage mechanism for those that test HIV+ is in place.
Mwanza said the government should help support community support structures of PLHIV in areas where the survey would be conducted as they were the ones that would have the burden of offering post-test counseling for those that would have tested HIV positive and explain to the public how and where the collected blood specimen would be taken and stored.
“The ZAMPHIA20 is an important survey that will have positive yields on Zambia and members of the public must be guaranteed that the exercise is aimed at improving their health by establishing their HIV status in their respective communities,” said Mwanza. “However, as important this may be it is imperative that under the circumstances a bottom up approach is employed rather than the top down which may result in a backlash from the community all together.”