Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

03 February 2012

South Africa's Health Services: An Interview with CAPRISA's Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim

via, interview with Dr.Quarraisha Abdool Karim

Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim is an infectious diseases epidemiologist and associate scientific director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa). AllAfrica's Julie Frederikse spoke to the 51-year-old and asked her about the challenges facing her team as they search for effective ways to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

We appreciate that there are many challenges. To simply walk in and say, doctors and nurses, you must now provide this or that - it won't work. We are aware that services are very strained in the public health sector. Morale is low, staff feel overwhelmed, and nurses often don't get sufficient support in the implementation of policy decisions.

So we have been working with the family planning nurses, using a Quality Improvement Strategy model that's been used extensively to improve the quality of health care delivery and access to important health interventions. It's similar to Paolo Freire's work in education, in that we aim to work with health care staff using empowering and enabling approaches.

How would you assess the government's sexual and reproductive health services in South Africa?

This country has one of most enviable lists of contraceptive methods available at no cost, yet the main method used is Depo Provera (which a recent study has shown to double the risk of transmission of HIV to women). There are IUDs and implants, which may be much better, safer options. So why are they not being promoted? Even with the injectables, there is NET-EN (norethisterone enanthate), which has a lower dose of progesterone and has a favourable safety profile for use by young people.

The point is that we have as policy on our essential drug list an extensive group of fertility control methods, so why is this not translated into access at point of delivery? The answer relates to the fact that the normal interaction time between a health professional and a client is very short, sometimes as short as 30 to 40 seconds. This doesn't leave time to consider other contraceptive options. We know you can't change people overnight, especially when their prescribing patterns are limited to just giving an injection, and perhaps asking a question like, 'do you know your HIV status?' But we know that we've got to change health care provision - to include HIV testing, screening for STIs and cervical cancer, just to mention a few. It's got to be part of a comprehensive model for prevention and treatment - but the challenges are in how to integrate this in over-stretched clinics.

Read the rest.

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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