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Ugandan Workshop on HIV Inspires Future Areas of Research

Henry Zakumumpa, CARTA graduate of Makerere University, led a community and public engagement (CPE) project- a multi-stakeholder data validation workshop- involving 44 participants on 3rd September 2020.

Henry’s research focuses on the uptake of new HIV treatment delivery models in Uganda. The workshop, held in Fort Portal town in Western Uganda, brought together district health officers, HIV clinic managers, clinicians, people living with HIV, representatives of PEPFAR implementing organizations, and academicians from Makerere University, School of Public Health.

During the workshop, his team presented findings from their study of the uptake of new HIV treatment delivery models known as ‘Differentiated Service Delivery.’ “We also presented findings from a national health facility survey and qualitative interviews with HIV service managers and patients around trends in the uptake of these new service delivery models across Uganda,” said Henry.

For the researchers, the event brought forth a new dimension of interpreting the results. For instance, they found that differences in gender and rural-urban settings led to differences in the uptake of community-based HIV care models. These are dimensions that are under-appreciated in the current literature on these new HIV service delivery approaches. “It also allowed us to reflect on the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is impacting access to ART refills or medicines, given travel restriction and increased transport costs owing to implementation of social distancing in public transport,” said Henry.

It also emerged from the event that side effects from newer HIV medicines (Dolutegravir-based ART) are widespread since the issue was frequently raised at the meeting. Further, it was found that adolescents have been left behind in the national efforts to the scale-up of new HIV service delivery models. “We have now engaged the Ministry of Health intending to recommend the updating of national ART treatment guidelines to allow adolescents to benefit from differentiated HIV service delivery,” he said.

HIV clinic managers and clinicians from Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital and Kabarole Hospital expressed willingness to collaborate on future studies on HIV services as study participants and investigators.

Two of the insights from the event have been incorporated into their manuscript submitted to PLoS One.

“It is my conviction to conduct more CPE activities in the future in a bid to overcome the ‘ivory tower’ tag placed on researchers and academics. The need to engage more with frontline health workers, patients, policymakers is one for which I have renewed aspiration,” said Henry.