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The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Background

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has struggled to provide quality health services to its population of 70 million, despite its vast natural resources and rich human capital. Since the late 1990s, a protracted crisis in the eastern part of the country has disrupted the national health system, leaving physicians and nurses across the country in need of the training and support, as well as the equipment and supplies, necessary for providing effective patient care.

HIV in DRC

DRC’s estimated HIV seroprevalence is 1.3 percent nationally, with a higher seroprevalence both in urban areas, including Kinshasa and Lubumbashi (1.9%), and among women (1.6%). At 4.1 percent the HIV servoprevalence is especially high among pregnant women. Despite the presence of donor support to launch a nationwide HIV program, the utilization of prevention and treatment services remains low. For example, although most deliveries take place in health facilities, only 9 percent of pregnant women were tested for HIV in 2009. Furthermore, only 14-21 percent of the people living with HIV who are clinically eligible for such treatment had started antiretroviral therapy.

ICAP in DRC

In 2010, ICAP initiated its support of DRC’s Ministry of health. The principle aim was to strengthen the nation’s laboratory network and to enhance adult and pediatric HIV care and treatment services, with a particular focus on integrating HIV and TB services at 20 health facilities. By December 2012, ICAP had expanded its support to 169 sites in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, including a network of health centers, TB treatment centers, and general reference hospitals that serve as both HIV care and treatment facilities and an entry point for ongoing comprehensive care and support for families.

More recently, ICAP has initiated partnerships with international and local NGOs to provide nutritional support to patients living with HIV, and has begun developing a plan to provide care and support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. ICAP is also collaborating with four nursing schools—two in Kinshasa and two in Lubumbashi—on a program to strengthen nurse education and to increase the number of skilled health workers in the country.