As the COVID-19 pandemic scales across Zimbabwe, there were numerous calls from global partners, including the United Nations Secretary-General, for the expanded use of tele-health and innovative technology solutions to limit congestion in health care systems and the adverse effects of potential disruptions to health care caused by lockdowns.
In response to the call, UNAIDS provided guidelines and financial support for the procurement of equipment and the training of online counsellors from the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) to establish a call centre to respond to inquiries from people living with HIV across the country.
The call centre platform is a national surveillance and information system which will ensure that challenges faced by people living with HIV are captured in real time and HIV services to boost COVID-19 testing, isolation, contact tracing and treatment are deployed efficiently.
The call centre will cover Zimbabwe’s ten provinces and will track specific indicators integrated into a data store which will assist in collating and analysing data received from the sub-national levels.
The collected data will be used to inform advocacy for issues like multi-month dispensing of antiretroviral medicines, access to viral load testing and access to HIV prevention and management.
“We welcome this initiative as it is user-friendly; people are able to call for free and have their issues addressed,” says Tatenda Makoni, Executive Director of ZNNP+.
The platform will assist the national network of people living with HIV in being proactive to serve the needs of its constituency. The platform will not end with COVID-19 but will focus on HIV services to boost testing, contact tracing and treatment capacities in Zimbabwe. Lessons learned from the call centre will be used to inform replication in other sectors and region.