AMPATH reaches one-millionth person milestone

Last month, in the village of Soy, Uasin Gishu County, Kenya, William Tenai, and his wife Jane anxiously awaited a group of visitors from Eldoret. The visitors included AMPATH leaders and community health workers who would be testing Mr. and Mrs. Tenai for HIV. The AMPATH leaders came along on this home-based testing visit because Mr. and Mrs. Tenai would soon become the one-millionth person and one-millionth-and-one person respectively to be reached since the inception of the AMPATH perpetual home-based counseling and testing program.

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“I was nervous at first to learn my HIV status,” said Mrs. Tenai. “Now I know my HIV status is negative and also how to stay safe thanks to the health talk by the AMPATH counselor.”

In 2009, AMPATH began deploying health workers out into the rural villages and communities. Armed with a bag of testing and counseling supplies and a smartphone with a GPS and AMPATH’s Medical Record System, the community health workers travel by foot door-to-door assuring every person over the age of 13 and every at-risk child is tested for HIV.  AMPATH’s structure to end the HIV pandemic is based on the FLTR model:  to find (F) every HIV-infected person, link (L) that person to care, treat (T) the individual, and retain (R) them in care.

“We will not win the AIDS battle by waiting for sick people to come to our clinics, but only by bringing HIV testing to people’s homes in Africa,” said Dr. Sylvester N. Kimaiyo, Chief Executive Officer, AMPATH. “We are grateful to all our partners—especially the Kenyan Government, USAID, and our lead private sector partner, the AbbVie Foundation— who have made this possible through their support.”

A celebration event was also held in the Soy village by Dr. Kimaiyo, who met the local administration led by the local area chief, Ben Chulele and elder, Joram Mwangi.

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In addition to reaching HIV-positive people and connecting them with necessary services, the AMPATH program is also helping those who test negative by making them aware of their status and providing information and support so they remain HIV-free. While historic numbers of patients are receiving modern antiretroviral treatment, the incidence of new infections and prevalence rates remain stubbornly high in Kenya. The pHCT campaign has brought not only HIV testing to hundreds of thousands of people’s homes, but also TB screening, malaria bed nets, deworming medication, orphan and vulnerable children identification, nutrition assessments and the promise of care and treatment if a person is found to be positive. In a pilot area of 500,000 people, counselors are also screening for hypertension and diabetes through blood pressure and blood sugar testing. This approach of bundling services has reduced the stigma of these home visits as well as provided access to care to people in need. Significantly, AMPATH’s pHCT teams were welcomed into the majority of homes and more than 95% of those eligible agreed to be tested.

The goal of the pHCT program is to reach everyone in the 2-million person catchment area. With the recent milestone, AMPATH is half-way there.