US officials visit Oshikango border wellness clinic

31 March 2021 | Health

STAFF REPORTER

US officials undertook a familiarising visit to the Walvis Bay Corridor Group's (WBCG) Key Population (KP) Friendly Wellness Container Clinic in Oshikango in early March.

The clinic is situated right at the Namibian and Angolan border and serves as a referral point for key population services to sustain access to HIV prevention services and commodities, sexual health and family planning services, prevention of gender-based violence and HIV counselling, testing and treatment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the continuous support and guidance of case managers, almost 100 female sex workers access health services and are tested for HIV each month at this facility.

One of the centre's case managers', Shikulo Malakia, told the visiting delegation that his clients could still have access to services during the pandemic because the MoHSS and WBCG established access points at the border for key populations to access health services. “The advanced decentralized distribution of ART and other medications were and continue to be critical for ensuring uninterrupted access to HIV services and reducing contact with clinics, as we continue with COVID-19 in our midst. The other strategy that we’ve used is peer educators delivering ART at homes and hotspots.” He also said that as a team, they identified drop-off locations where men who have sex with men and female sex workers can pick up condoms, lubricants, and HIV self-test kits.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, Jessica Long and Acting USAID country representative, Michele Russell visited the clinic to observe operations, the role of peer navigation and HIV prevention, care and treatment.

The ministry of health and social services in partnership with the Key Population-Strengthening Technical Assistance and Response for Sustainable HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment (KP-STAR) consortium partners, including WBCG, under the leadership of IntraHealth Namibia with funding from PEPFAR through USAID is supporting the provision of clinical services at the WBCG clinics.

The case managers shared their experiences and how they supported the continuation of HIV services for key populations at the site and in the community. Case managers work full time and play an important role in supporting HIV-positive services.

Ndamona Shaumbwa, case manager for Oshikango, highlighted that COVID-19 has introduced her to new and creative ways to connect and support patients. “During COVID-19, I was forced to maximize the use of online services such as QuickRes – a website that allows clients to book appointments for health services in Namibia. Beyond COVID-19, this platform will be useful in securing confidentiality of clients and convenience of accessing services as it shortens waiting time.

Key populations are especially vulnerable to HIV service interruptions and additional harm during COVID-19.