Less than three percent of the 150,000 people living with HIV in South Sudan have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and access to comprehensive HIV care and treatment, as well as other primary health services, in the country remain limited. The Government of South Sudan is taking critical steps to respond to this challenge; yet, there are many, competing demands on government services and human resources for health in the country are not sufficient. Capacity challenges need to be met in order to facilitate the needed expansion of HIV care and treatment services in South Sudan.
ICAP initiated its activities in South Sudan in January 2013 to provide technical assistance and capacity building support focused on HIV programming in the country. ICAP aims to work with the Ministry of Health and the South Sudan AIDS Commission to strengthen program management at the national level—in order to support the expansion of quality HIV services throughout the country and to ensure effective and equitable implementation of the national HIV program.
With a highly experienced team, ICAP has initiated a comprehensive assessment of the 22 health facilities currently providing ART in South Sudan. Utilizing a tool that was piloted at Juba Teaching Hospital, the assessment focuses on issues related to patient care, ART service delivery, human resources, infrastructure and equipment for the management of HIV patients, and supply chain management. The assessment team recently completed Phase 1, visiting eight health facilities in the Central, Eastern, and Western Equatoria provinces of South Sudan. Phase 2 will begin in April 2013 and will focus on conducting assessments at nine health facilities in Lakes State, Jonglei, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, and Western Bahr El Ghazal— and on providing technical assistance to the health facilities that were assessed during Phase 1. The third and final phase will focus on assessing five health facilities in Unity State, Warrap, and Upper Nile provinces.
In March, ICAP collaborated with the Ministry of Health to organize and implement a HIV Refresher Training Workshop in South Sudan. More than 40 representatives from the HIV care and treatment sector in the country attended the training, including leadership from each of the 22 ART health facilities. Informed by the recently completed Phase 1 Assessment, ICAP and the Ministry of Health introduced standards for quality care for ART sites, shared methodologies to improve quality of ART services, and set performance expectations. Dr. Ayat Jervis, Director of HIV/AIDS for the Ministry of Health, stated, “We have been focusing on scaling up ART care, but now we start our journey to focus on quality. We will learn much from this workshop in the areas of quality, mainly in coordination and clinical care.”
Dr. Moses Mutebi, Country Representative and HIV/AIDS Program Manager for the WHO in South Sudan, indicated, “I am very glad to see ICAP support us in South Sudan, as we did not have much data on the quality of care to date. This is a great opportunity in thinking of how our national strategic plan is going to be implemented, keeping the quality of care to the standards.”