HIV and AIDS - Counselling and Testing

Successful treatment and management of HIV infection is essential on early diagnosis, ensuring patients are referred promptly for evaluation, provided treatment (if necessary) and linked to relevant psychosocial services. Patients are better equipped to take responsibility of their health management which helps them to reduce their risk for transmitting HIV to others. Since HIV damages the immune system, the earlier the diagnosis the less damage is done, ensuring HIV-positive people can live longer, and suffer less from the symptoms of AIDS.

HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC) services have helped millions of people learn their HIV status and for those testing positive, learn about options for long term care and treatment.

The development and use of rapid, point-of-care HIV tests in the late 1990s have facilitated expansion of HIV testing services. These rapid tests can be performed with a finger-prick blood sample collected and processed by a trained health care worker and can be conducted outside of health facilities and traditional testing sites. Use of more than one rapid test can provide immediate, on-site confirmation of test results.

Zoë-Life’s Role

Zoë-Life specialises in providing technical support and capacity building to health care workers involved in providing HCT services. Past clients are the Department of Health, District Municipality and Civil Society Organisations.

Zoë-Life assisted Department of Health and Municipality, with PEPFAR funding, by capacitating lay counsellors, CCG’s and nurses in PHC facilities to provide HCT services to their clients. Previously only central hospital facilities offered HCT services to clients and as a result, patients who visited PHC facilities were often treated for symptoms of ailments without diagnosis of the underlying cause, which was HIV.

Zoë-Life demonstrated a viable model of HIV management and service provision to clients treated by mobile PHC. Staff of mobile PHC services, linked to a DoH facilitiy were also capacitated, ensuring HCT services became available. Patients only required referral to facility level once initiation of ARV’s became necessary.

Zoë-Life has also partnered with many Civil Society organisations to provide HCT services at a community level, thus decongesting DoH facilities and allowing patients to better access services where they live.

Capacity building is done through:

  • Comprehensive Formal training
  • Preceptorship and mentorship programmes
  • Development and design of mentorship and quality assurance tools
  • Training of site mentors to implement routine quality assurance, with quality improvement, if necessary

Zoë-Life was part of the National Department of Health HIV task team that was responsible for the development of the National HIV Counselling and Testing Manual.