In 2019, I-TECH conducted an on-site assessment at Trinidad and Tobago’s largest HIV treatment site. The findings of that assessment led to the establishment of an integrated psychosocial program at this site that has yielded favorable results. This further inspired the need for expansion of this psychosocial approach to other HIV treatment and care sites.
In 2022, I-TECH collaborated with the HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit (HACU) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) to conduct a similar rapid assessment throughout the national treatment and care sites. The results reflected that there was a need for specialized staff to identify and treat common mental health and psychosocial concerns, as well as a standardized approach. Therefore, I-TECH is supporting the HACU to lead the expansion and strengthening of mental health and psychosocial (MHPS) service delivery for persons living with HIV at HIV treatment and care sites in Trinidad and Tobago. Goals include the standardization of psychosocial assessments to support the early identification of psychological distress, symptoms of co-morbid mental illness and psychosocial issues; as well as the standardization of the procedures for making interventions.
Developing a draft MHPS Protocol to include screening and intervention tools and psychosocial standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Establishing a standardized referral system
Training and supporting psychosocial team members in the use of the SOPs and all screening and assessment tools. Training will address areas of intimate partner violence, gender-based violence, and mental health challenges that are frequently encountered within the client population
Training and supporting psychosocial team members in data collection and reporting requirements
Training and capacity -building of psychosocial team members of the Psychosocial Coordination Unit being established by the HACU
Reducing stigma and discrimination toward vulnerable groups in health care settings can have a positive impact on enrollment in care, retention in care and treatment, and viral suppression of HIV. The Key Populations Preceptorship (KPP) program is a simulated one-on-one patient-provider training program that brings together a health care provider and a preceptorship trainer (PT), who is a member of a key population group, with the observation of a training facilitator. The PT takes on the role of a mock patient and uses a pre-scripted scenario as a guide to interact with the provider-in-training, giving feedback after each scenario. The KPP builds the provider’s capacity to provide comprehensive and nonjudgmental care to key population groups including gay and bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, persons of trans experience, and sex workers.
The KPP was adapted based on Jamaica’s KPP for clinicians in 2016 for physicians in Trinidad. In 2017, it was adapted for nurses and was delivered in-person over the course of a two-day period. In response to COVID-19 protocols, the KPP for social workers, which was adapted in 2020, was delivered virtually.
I-TECH Trinidad and Tobago collaborates with local organizations to implement programs focused on supporting the health and wellness of people living with HIV (PLHIV), including:
• National HIV Helpline: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for virtual support and information on HIV testing, care, treatment, and support, and an increased need for guidance and psychosocial support for PLHIV. This prompted the need for a central line for communication and connection to the HIV/AIDS network. For World AIDS Day 2021, the National AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC), Office of the Prime Minister, in collaboration with the HIV AIDS Coordinating Unit (HACU) of the Ministry of Health and I-TECH, launched the national HIV helpline. I-TECH provides technical assistance, training, and capacity building support to the HIV Helpline Coordinator and Active Listeners and is supporting efforts to raise the social media profile to increase caller volume.
•Patient Health and Literacy: In collaboration with the National AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC), Office of the Prime Minister and a technical working group comprised of PLHIV and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives, I-TECH developed content across nine topic areas aimed at improving PLHIV health and treatment literacy. The content was integrated into the inaugural NACC website in a dedicated section titled “It’s All About U:” Identifying the Key Steps to a Healthier U, along your path to becoming Undetectable. Topic areas were focused on promoting and encouraging U=U with content titled: U and Your Dream Team; A healthy U; All about U and HIV; What U may get wrong; Your journey to U; U and your Partner; U in the future – HIV and Aging; U and your Baby – HIV and Pregnancy; HIV and COIVD-19 . The website is expected to facilitate wider access and reach to the PLHIV community and is the first content of its kind to provide consolidated, standardized and culturally appropriate material on HIV and AIDS treatment, care, and support in Trinidad and Tobago.
The International AIDS Society (IAS) virtually hosted the 11th Conference on HIV Science on 18-21 July 2021. The conference also included a “local partner hub” in Berlin, the original host city, for local experts to gather in person. This biennial conference brings together top HIV researchers, experts, and scientists for presentations and discussions on the latest advances in HIV research and practice.
Representatives from the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) virtually presented the following posters:
On October 1, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) celebrated the launch of the local and independent Botswana Training and Education Center for Health (B-TECH) and Caribbean Training and Education Center for Health (C-TECH).
For more than 17 years, these teams have worked within the regional Botswana and Caribbean offices of I-TECH to respond to the health needs of individuals and communities infected and affected by HIV. B-TECH and C-TECH, as locally registered non-governmental organizations, will continue to build on those years of experience implementing innovative, locally driven HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs, as well as expand their work to tackle other pressing health issues within the Batswana and Caribbean communities.
As part of the I-TECH network, B-TECH and C-TECH are able to access the academic depth and regulatory structures of UW and, together with local and regional clinical and programmatic expertise, scale up best practices and strengthen health systems. As local entities, B-TECH and C-TECH will also be able to take advantage of expanded partnership opportunities.
Both teams have supported pioneering work in their regions to provide comprehensive, patient-centered care for the most vulnerable populations. The C-TECH team has implemented a groundbreaking preceptorship program to improve provider communication with key populations affected by HIV in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It has also implemented a successful telementoring program through a Project ECHO®-based platform and model, reaching 465 providers. The program connects groups of providers to form communities of practice throughout the region to facilitate clinical updates, case consultations, and strengthened practice in HIV treatment and care and, recently, COVID-19.
“We look forward to remaining within the I-TECH family,” said Natalie Irving-Mattocks, Executive Director of C-TECH. “But our team is equipped and ready to move into this next chapter, deepening our local relationships, expanding our reach throughout the Caribbean, and building on our commitment to support access to high quality health care for the region’s most vulnerable.”
For its part, the B-TECH team has made an enormous impact on the health systems of Botswana, enabling the policy environment for HIV clinical case management; developing and implementing an interoperable, standards-based health information system; and enhancing the capacity of the health workforce at all levels. The team has also implemented innovative, high-yield testing approaches to increase HIV case identification. Targeted HIV testing strategies include partner testing services; HIV self-testing; testing among presumptive tuberculosis cases; and the expansion of afterhours and weekend testing to target men.
“We are excited to begin this new endeavor to promote innovative, locally driven, and effective programs to respond to the HIV epidemic in Botswana,” said Dr. Odirile Bakae, Executive Director of B-TECH. “With a high level of technical assistance from I-TECH, combined with B-TECH’s boots-on-the-ground approach, we are a winning team. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with both I-TECH/UW and the Government of Botswana.”
I-TECH has worked closely with UW Global Operations Support over the past decade to inform the internal procedures and structures necessary for international office registrations. This work has promoted operational effectiveness by enabling a safe, compliant, and legal environment for conducting international work. I-TECH’s close work with Global Operations Support has also helped to create the administrative and policy structures necessary to enable the successful launch of B-TECH and C-TECH.
Over the past two years, three other I-TECH offices – in Haiti, India, and Zimbabwe – have launched local organizations, signaling I-TECH’s bedrock commitment to transition, sustainability, and country ownership.
“These new organizations reflect our shared goals of serving communities, building capacity, and supporting expert leadership across the I-TECH network,” said Dr. Pamela Collins, I-TECH Executive Director. “We look forward to continued strong collaboration that saves lives.”
Read more about the B-TECH and C-TECH leadership teams below.
Dr. Odirile Bakae, Executive Director, B-TECH
Dr. Bakae is a physician with over 15 years of clinical experience in providing services to people living with HIV, as well as a deep understanding of structuring health programs to optimize client outcomes. He has several years of experience practicing medicine in public health settings in Botswana, including the management of the Infectious Disease Control Centers (IDCC), specializing in ART failure clients, complicated TB and HIV cases, and cervical cancer patients.
In addition to his role as B-TECH Executive Director, Dr. Bakae is the Principal Investigator for the CDC funded Cervical Cancer (GH20-2009) and Strategic Information Services (GH20-2007) awards.
He joined I-TECH Botswana in 2015 and led one of the most successful HIV testing programs in the country, focusing on a client-centered approach. Under his leadership, the country program performed exceptionally well, in terms of quality of service delivery and in meeting donor targets and expectations.
Ms. Kauta is a seasoned operations management professional with over 20 years of experience across a wide range of industries. She joined I-TECH Botswana in April 2009 and, as the Deputy Executive Director for B-TECH, she oversees operations, finance, and human resources, and is responsible for design and implementation of internal controls and compliance oversight at all levels of the organization.
In her management role, Ms. Kauta provides planning and coordination of efficient and effective support services to enable delivery of quality work to B-TECH clients and stakeholders. A key function of her role is to identify solutions to address operational challenges within B-TECH as well as ensure the implementation and adherence to the organization’s operational systems, policies and procedures.
Ms. Irving-Mattocks is a public health program director with extensive experience in managing projects focusing on health systems strengthening. She is also a business development practitioner with 13 years of experience in the field of social development. Her expertise includes financial management, budget management, project proposal writing, program design/development, planning, implementation and monitoring, strategic planning, and institutional development.
To her role as C-TECH Executive Director, Ms. Irving-Mattocks also brings deep experience and a proven track record in mobilizing and managing grants from international funding agencies such as United States Department of Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), PANCAP Global Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Clinton Foundation and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Clive Anderson, Board Chair and Technical Advisor, C-TECH
Dr. Anderson has 30 years of experience as a primary care physician, specializing in HIV and STI care and prevention, as well as dermatology. He comes to his role as Board Chair and Technical Advisor after serving as Country Director of I-TECH Jamaica for the past three years.
He remains Technical Advisor to I-TECH Jamaica, where his experience also includes extensive experience as Technical Lead of the Caribbean Quality Improvement Collaborative (CareQIC), Lead HIV Project ECHO® Facilitator and Mentor, and clinical mentor at HIV treatment sites throughout Jamaica.
Dr. Anderson is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health, University of Washington.
The ZimPAAC consortium collaborates with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in Zimbabwe to meet the following primary HIV epidemic control objectives:
Diagnose 95% of all persons living with HIV through integrated testing
Ensure 95% of individuals diagnosed with HIV are initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART), retained in care, and are virally suppressed using differentiated service delivery models
Using a Differentiated care model, a patient-centered model of service delivery designed to meet the diverse needs and expectations of all people living with HIV, ZimPAAC oversees activities such as:
facility and community-based HIV testing;
HIV self-testing, index case testing;
ART initiation; and
ART delivery through multi-month refills for stable patients, Family ART Refill Groups, and Community ART Refill Groups (CARGs). CARGs benefit group members—through decreasing health center visits, offering peer support, and allowing clients to take responsibility for their health—and staff, by decreasing workload and allowing greater time for patient care.
In addition to differentiated service delivery, ZimPAAC conducts site-level mentoring at health facilities to strengthen health service delivery towards the “95-95-95” UNAIDS targets by improving patient linkages between HIV testing, initiation on treatment, and retention in care rates. This is accomplished in part by several hundred dedicated HIV testers and nurses who support ART initiation and management of opportunistic infections alongside MoHCC staff.
ZimPAAC also supports index testing through community linkages activities that help clients access HIV testing, especially sexual partners and biological children of existing HIV-positive clients who present to the health facilities. In an effort to improve index testing within MoHCC health facilities, ZimPAAC has implemented an assisted partner service model, known as Enhanced Index Case Testing. This program emphasizes reaching clients recently diagnosed with HIV and those whose blood tests show a high HIV viral load. Quality Improvement activities are a key part of ZimPAAC’s approach to improving outcomes for index testing. In 2019, a “change package” describing the interventions that have improved index testing was developed by ZimPAAC for national scale-up of the model.
ZimPAAC program activities also support retaining people living with HIV in care. Programs engage community linkage facilitators who work with facilities and communities to identify patients who have defaulted from treatment and return them to services.
In addition to HIV care and prevention for adults, ZimPAAC supports increased access to services for children and adolescents through Africaid’s community adolescent treatment supporters (CATS). CATS are HIV positive 18-to-24-year-olds trained to provide peer support, conduct demand-creation activities, build community engagement, and mobilize targeted HIV testing and outreach activities to bring services to this hard-to-reach group.
In addition to the first two objectives, ZimPAAC collaborates with MoHCC towards two additional objectives:
Strengthen and expand access to cervical cancer screening and treatment of precancerous cervical lesions among women living with HIV
Increase uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services through training, technical assistance and direct client support
Under the direction of PZAT, ZimPAAC also works closely with the MoHCC to support key-population-friendly programming in the public health sector facilities in Harare. PZAT supports health worker training at selected facilities and builds demand and knowledge of these services through community champions and engagement with vulnerable populations and advocacy and civil society organizations. PZAT also works to promote PrEP services for adolescent girls and young women in Mazowe district and among key populations in Harare.
High-quality, effective, and evidence-based service delivery for HIV care and prevention requires a broad continuum of integrated and linked services to ensure consistent and high-quality client management over time. With the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to “Treat All,” eligibility for antiretroviral therapy (ART) among People Living with HIV (PLHIV) is eliminated, and all populations and age groups are linked in one universal policy. This recommendation change erases the distinction between all groups. However, a substantial number of PLHIV still present late to care and have advanced disease, and require interventions that prioritize clinical packages to reduce mortality and morbidity and eventually enable them to become clinically stable .
I-TECH Tanzania led the development of the task-sharing policy guidelines for Health Sector Services approved in 2016 as well as the policy’s operational plan. While task-sharing is a widely known HIV service delivery efficiency strategy, still there is continues gaps between national strategies and actual implementation at the site-level [1,2].
I-TECH India PL has successfully designed and implemented four differentiated ART service delivery models, including models for key population clients, in collaboration with other stakeholders in states of Maharashtra, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram to develop a proof of concept for the national level scale up;
Improved delivery of health services through onsite technical mentoring and supervison of health care staff in 9% of the ART centers of the country in the last three years;
Technically assisted successful implementation of newer initiatives such as treatment of TB through the ART centers, the “Treat All” initiative, and routine viral load monitoring at 48 ART centers; and
Conducted/participated in health service delivery assessments of facilities such as the national HIV/AIDS Centers of Excellence, ART Centers, Link ART Centers, and other care and support centers for the NACO.
In October 2016, the Government of Tanzania adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Treat All recommendations. The adoption of WHO recommendations, coupled with the Government of Tanzania’s acceptance of the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets represents a significant commitment to the fight against HIV in Tanzania.