In collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) and Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I-TECH has supported the national COVID-19 response in Malawi since March 2020. Technical assistance has focused on laboratory capacity, supporting quality COVID-19 surveillance and data management, and implementing a COVID-19 population-based survey with oversight from the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM), under MOH.
In June 2020, I-TECH seconded a Technical Advisor (TA) to PHIM to support COVID-19 activities. The I-TECH TA acts as secretariat for the national Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC), supporting the coordination of the multi-sectoral COVID-19 response, developing and revising strategies and procedures, facilitating communication, and ensuring access to and sharing of COVID-19 data and information between partners.
I-TECH has also assisted with data management and reporting at the district level, as well as with contact tracing and adherence to infection prevention and control measures.
I-TECH has been able to leverage use of its platform for HIV laboratory activities to provide critical lab support for COVID-19 activities and provide key support to the National Health Reference Laboratory, focusing on building or increasing laboratory capacity including with genomic sequencing, maintaining quality assurance, and improving communication and coordination among laboratory stakeholders.
The I-TECH Team also coordinated a population-based survey to evaluate the extent of spread of COVID-19 in five high-burden districts in Malawi.
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:
Representatives from I-TECH’s partner network organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also presented data from I-TECH-supported programs in Malawi, India, and Zimbabwe.
- Carson Telford, MPH, CDC, presented an ePoster on the I-TECH HIV-1 surveillance program implemented in 103 facilities in Malawi titled, “Geospatial clusters of recent HIV-1 infection, Malawi, October 2019 – March 2020.”
- Anwar Parvez Sayed, MBBS, TDD, MPH, I-TECH India PLC Executive Director, presented an ePoster on HIV treatment interruption prevention during COVID-19 in India titled, “Interactive voice response system (ARTmitra) – a lifeline to prevent treatment interruption during COVID-19 in Mumbai, India.”
- Blessing Mushangwe, MBChB, MPH, Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training & Education Center for Health Senior Program Manager, was the presenting author for an ePoster describing the results of a community outreach program to provide HIV services and reduce COVID-19 exposure titled, “Outreach points fill HIV service gaps while health facilities were closed in Harare, Zimbabwe, August-December 2020.”
The International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), in collaboration with the Malawian Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began implementing recent HIV infection surveillance in April 2019. The project aims to establish a surveillance system among persons newly diagnosed with HIV infection by integrating point-of-care testing for recent infection into routine HIV testing services (HTS). A rapid test for recent infection is given to consenting clients 13-years-and-older who screen HIV positive within routine HTS across participating health facilities. Between April 2019-2020, I-TECH and MOH activated 485 testing points at 155 facilities in Malawi. All 155 facilities implemented recent HIV infection surveillance and reported data. The project has reached 11 of 28 districts to date.
These data allow the detection and characterization of recent HIV infection among newly diagnosed individuals and identify geographic areas associated with recent HIV-1 infection to inform geographic prioritization of HIV prevention and treatment strategies. The project has demonstrated high uptake and allowed characterization of recent infections according to socio-demographic and geographic factors. PEPFAR implementers in Malawi will collaborate with MOH to further investigate the reasons for high recent infection prevalence in identified clusters. Based on the findings of these responses, Malawi may focus on interventions such as youth-focused programs that aim to limit HIV acquisition and transmission among young people.