CQUIN recently supported teams from Eswatini, Mozambique, and Zambia to participate in a joint country-to-country learning exchange visit to Tanzania.
From March 29 to April 1, 2022, the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH) National AIDS Control Program hosted the three country teams. Visitors learned how Tanzania designs its key and vulnerable populations (KVP) programs, specifically methadone-assisted therapy (MAT) clinics for people who inject drugs and community services for key populations.
The exchange included two field visits to explore health facilities implementing differentiated models of care for key populations in Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam and Mwanza regions. In Mwanza, the teams visited a MAT clinic at the Sekou Toure Regional hospital and “Yovaribe,” a community-based organization that operates a resource center for people who inject drugs. They also visited an island community called Bezi, where there are HIV services for fisherfolk and female sex workers.
In Dar Es Salaam, the teams visited the Muhimbili Hospital MAT clinic and Life of Hope rehabilitation center. In addition, teams reviewed country guidelines on key populations, monitoring and evaluation tools, and capacity-building tools and interacted with MOH staff on program implementation successes and challenges.
The visiting country teams were particularly impressed with the coordination between the different units that implement the KVP program. In Tanzania, the Ministry of Health works with security agencies, civil society, and peer-led groups to support people who use the MAT clinics.
“The presence and influence of civil society in Tanzania’s KVP program is impressive,” said Sibusiso Malunga, Civil Society Organization representative for Zambia. “Tanzania’s tools and approach to enrolling recipients of care on MAT stood out. Seeing the program in action has given our team some ideas on implementing a similar program in Zambia,” she said.
Tanzania’s MOH has gradually scaled up KVP services by highlighting the importance of services for KVP groups as an integral component of reaching HIV epidemic control. The country now has 14 MAT clinics, and a KVP-led group that advocates for the health rights of key population groups also has the Tanzanian Prime Minister’s support.
Although the three visiting countries provide services for key populations, only Mozambique provides MAT services. Following the visit, both Eswatini and Zambia expressed interest in offering MAT services in their countries. The learning exchange provided an excellent opportunity for the countries to understand what is required to set up similar interventions.
“Interested countries should first map the need for MAT clinics,” advised Mastidia Rutaihwa, MD, DSD coordinator for Tanzania’s MOH. “Establish good rehabilitation services, involve different stakeholders, and ensure government buy-in because of sensitivities around drug use, then start with one MAT and gradually expand.”