New AIDS Center Focused on Families Opens in Malawi

{Photo credit: Henry Nyaka}Malawian Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi and US Ambassador Virginia Palmer cut the ribbon to officially open the Umodzi Family Center, an HIV and tuberculosis clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, on World AIDS Day.Photo credit: Henry Nyaka

The Umodzi Family Center, an HIV and tuberculosis clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, officially opened on World AIDS Day with the support of Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi said the time had come for the southern region to have a referral HIV center. “I have to thank all stakeholders and development partners, more especially the United States, for the collaboration in making this project a success,” said Muluzi.

Lighthouse Executive Director Professor Sam Phiri led Muluzi, US Ambassador Virginia Palmer, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dan Namarika, and other dignitaries on a brief tour of the clinic to learn about the services offered. Lighthouse, a local nonprofit, will manage the center.

The Umodzi Family Center will offer a strategic mix of approaches that have been developed and refined by Lighthouse at its centers of excellence in Lilongwe. These approaches have been proven to address the specific requirements of people living with HIV, shifting from a focus on acute care to chronic care as people living with HIV have normal life expectancies.

In 2017, following the release of the Malawi Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment, which showed that Blantyre had the highest HIV prevalence (17.7%) and the lowest viral suppression rates (59.5%) in the country, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed finalizing construction of and furnishing the clinic. PEPFAR/CDC asked MSH to complete the work, which had begun in 2007 under the MOH. Construction stalled for a number of years, and in 2015 MSH began advocating for its completion.

Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital serves as a referral hospital for patients from other health facilities within Blantyre city as well as Blantyre District and six other districts. The Umodzi Family Centre will offer more comprehensive HIV services for HIV prevention, care, and treatment, including enhanced screening and management for patients with advanced HIV.

Access to critical services will be integrated into the HIV service delivery platform so that patients with HIV have a “one-stop shop” which includes screening, care, and treatment for tuberculosis and targeted reproductive health services. The clinic will provide primary care and referral-level HIV services, and address the needs of patients both from a clinical perspective and a psychosocial aspect to reduce barriers identified by clients.

In addition to contributing to the completion and furnishing of the building, PEPFAR/CDC direct support to HIV service delivery at this clinic will include salary support for frontline health workers and support staff for HIV testing, care, and treatment, coordinated through Lighthouse and the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine. Equipment provided includes laboratory point of care technologies for providing rapid and real-time services for very ill patients, other HIV diagnostic and care equipment, and electronic medical records systems and computers and servers for service delivery data and program monitoring. The Umodzi Family Center will serve as a regional and national site for innovations in service delivery, training, and mentorship.