23 December 2020 | Informations
Fighting against COVID-19 means dealing with its multiple consequences on access to care. Testimony of Kadijah Bangura, HIV In-Charge of the Children’s reference hospital ODCH in Freetown.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, which populations have been particularly vulnerable in Sierra Leone? I have been particularly concerned about the situation of children affected by HIV/AIDS, especially orphans and all those unable to access treatment on their own. Due to the health crisis, their carers and caregivers have often stopped going to the hospital for fear of COVID-19, leaving these children behind, when they were already so vulnerable?
The economic consequences of the pandemic have also had a major impact on HIV/AIDS patients, with many losing their jobs. Taking antiretroviral treatment requires proper nutrition, which is essential to be able to withstand treatment, but is directly correlated to income conditions .
In this context, how can we respond to the challenge of continuity of care? COVID-19 made it difficult for patients to attend regular appointments. Restrictions and economic hardship have accumulated, making it difficult for many to travel. In order to reach them, we readjusted the treatment offer, calling patients on the phone and dropping off treatments at their doorstep. And thanks to the responsiveness of our teams, we were able to have patients tested when they visited our health centres.
This is how, despite difficult conditions, we have managed to maintain continuity of care.
What are you lacking today? We need stocks of antiretrovirals quickly. The pandemic has led to the closure of airports, even though the majority of HIV treatment in Sierra Leone comes from abroad. We have been trying to find new suppliers, so it is essential that we do not run out of drugs in the future so that we can continue to implement our HIV/AIDS strategy. We also lack soap and telephone packages, so that we can communicate with patients, know that they are at home and taking their treatment.