Home Tuberculosis Maintaining ART services during COVID-19 border closures: lessons learned in Namibia

Maintaining ART services during COVID-19 border closures: lessons learned in Namibia

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The Namibian Ministry of Health estimates that approximately 5000 Angolans live along the 1376 km shared border between Angola and Namibia, and receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Namibia free of charge (unpublished). Shortly after Namibia’s first documented cases of COVID-19 on March 14, 2020, Namibia’s President declared a state of emergency and closed international borders, restricting movement of nearly all individuals and affecting the provision of health services to Angolan patients who had been receiving ART services in Namibia.

The Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services, with support from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, implemented a strategy for HIV treatment continuity, while limiting patient volumes at ART facilities to minimise risk of COVID-19 exposure. The strategy included coordinated information dissemination, collaboration between regional and local governments, and community points for dispensing ART at the border with Angola. This strategy also included an emphasis on multimonth (3–6 months) dispensing of ART and tracing patients who missed appointments by telephone to link them back into care.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services coordinated information dissemination on managing patients receiving ART via the virtual mentorship platform provided by the Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO). Namibia was one of the first African countries to adopt Project ECHO in 2015 to connect remote clinical sites with central specialists by use of a collaborative model of medical education and care management.

  • Struminger B
  • Arora S
  • Zalud-Cerrato S
  • Lowrance D
  • Ellerbrock T
Building virtual communities of practice for health.