Management Sciences for Health Recognizes Achievements in Angola’s Fight Against HIV and AIDS

Arlington, VA, and Luanda, Angola—Management Sciences for Health (MSH) announced today the conclusion of its work supporting Angola’s Ministry of Health in its efforts to strengthen the country’s response to HIV and AIDS through two programs funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID): Health For All (HFA), which focused on establishing a sustainable model for high-quality HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, and LINKAGES, which expanded the reach and quality of HIV services for the hardest-hit populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender persons.

The contributions of both projects toward an HIV-free Angola were celebrated at two events in the nation’s capital, Luanda, last week, with representatives from the US Embassy; USAID; Angola’s Ministry of Health; the National Institute for the Fight against AIDS; ANASO, the national umbrella association of HIV civil society organizations; MSH’s implementing partners; and a group of health facilities and other organizations that participated in both projects.

As a partner to the primary implementing organizations for each project, MSH lent its expertise on HIV and AIDS, helping to achieve remarkable results and setting an innovative model for HIV testing, counseling, and treatment that can be expanded throughout the country.

“Through the efforts of our teams and the dedicated counselors and educators we support, more than 230,000 Angolans know their HIV status today, and more than two-thirds of those who tested positive are now receiving the care and treatment they need, giving them the opportunity to lead healthy lives,” said Marian W. Wentworth, MSH’s President and CEO.

Health For All

Based on epidemiological and programmatic data, the HFA project focused its HIV and AIDS activities in Luanda, where approximately 40% of Angolans on HIV treatment reside. HFA worked in close collaboration with the Government of Angola to pilot and implement a sustainable model for delivering effective and high-quality HIV services—a unique testing and treatment collaboration among patient assistant facilitators, community counselors, case managers, and data clerks who interact with people living with HIV at various stages of their care.

The model, implemented in seven health facilities supported by PEPFAR, serves as a roadmap for the country’s efforts toward increasing the number of people being tested for HIV, the number of those who start and stay on treatment, and viral suppression rates needed to stop the HIV epidemic in accordance with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy (90% of all HIV-positive persons diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed on antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of those treated having achieved viral suppression by 2020).

“As a result of HFA support, more people at target health facilities are receiving HIV testing, counseling, and treatment than ever before,” said Arturo Silva, HFA’s Technical Director. “Our legacy includes the country’s first standards of practice model, which the Ministry of Health can now apply throughout the country so more people will be tested, counseled, and treated. This way, HIV infections will drop in Angola.”

The index case testing strategy and the integration of HIV and tuberculosis services and of HIV and family planning were also notable achievements during the project.

Since HFA launched in 2017, more than 170,000 Angolans have been tested using the model, of whom 13,408 were positive. More important, the percentage of HIV-positive individuals linked to HIV treatment increased from less than 40% to almost 80% in the past three years. As of June 2019, more than 17,000 Angolans are receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV in the seven HFA-supported facilities, and 75% of tested patients have an undetectable viral load, making them much less likely to pass the virus to their sexual partners.

LINKAGES

The Angola LINKAGES (Linkages across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV) project aimed to reduce HIV transmission among key populations by improving their enrollment and retention in care. LINKAGES also focused on accelerating the ability of governments, organizations working with key populations at risk of HIV, and private-sector providers to plan and implement services that improve the lives of those already living with HIV.

LINKAGES helped improve the capacity of 10 local civil society organizations and three community groups to bring HIV-related prevention, testing, and care services to 61,852 individuals at high risk of infection. Activities included the distribution of more than two million condoms and lubricants at bars, nightclubs, brothels, and other community venues in Luanda, Bie, and Benguela Provinces. Some 76% of individuals reached agreed to be tested for HIV, many of them for the first time. Additionally, of the 2,344 people who tested positive for HIV, 80% were linked to health facilities for treatment (as of August 25, 2019).

Over the years, LINKAGES and its partners completed scientific studies, including the first prevalence study of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among key populations in five provinces: Luanda, Bie, Benguela, Cabinda, and Cunene. The project also developed a comprehensive package of interventions and tools that address the specific needs of these groups—female sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender persons—in the prevention of HIV, other STIs, and gender-based violence, including an integrated health information system that allows the Ministry of Health and civil society to track every patient in the community over time. LINKAGES and the provincial health office of Luanda also brought trainings on stigma and discrimination to 550 medical personnel and support staff from 21 HIV treatment health facilities in the province.

MSH has worked in Angola for more than a decade, supporting efforts to build up the country’s health system with a variety of interventions that ranged from improving access to affordable high-quality medicines to training health managers. Population Services International (PSI), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit global health organization, is the lead implementer of HFA. MSH supported the implementation of the project’s HIV and AIDS work. LINKAGES is implemented by FHI360, a nonprofit development organization based in North Carolina, with MSH in a supporting role. Both projects are funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID. MSH will continue to support HIV and AIDS work for key populations in Angola with additional support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through the United Nations Development Programme.

For more information, visit:https://www.msh.org/our-work/country/angola

For more information about HFA, visit:https://www.msh.org/our-work/projects/usaid-health-for-all

For more information about LINKAGES, visit:https://www.fhi360.org/projects/linkages-across-continuum-hiv-services-key-populations-affected-hiv-linkages