AIDS Drug Adherence Support Workers Make a Difference in Zambia

Thirty-six year old Daniel Ngoshe, a father of six children, was jobless when he discovered he was infected with HIV.  But his life dramatically changed when he went on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and was disciplined about his drug regimen.

The free anti-retroviral therapy in Zambia – as in other countries – is effective only if patients like Daniel take the life-extending medications correctly.  Taking drugs at the wrong time of the day or at the wrong dosage can result in drug resistance, placing the life of those on ART at serious risk.  For this reason, the Zambia Prevention, Care and Treatment Partnership (ZPCT) started a project in 2006 to ensure that as more Zambians are able to begin ART, they are supported to take the drugs correctly and seek regular follow-up care.

Daniel was one of 171 others who attended the Adherence Support Workers training held by ZPCT with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID.  This training targeted people who were living openly with HIV and taking antiretroviral drugs.

Daniel learned simple acts of accountability and basic facts about the HIV epidemic, HIV counseling and testing, ways to live positively, and barriers to drug adherence.  His new knowledge gave him the confidence to take his first CD4 test, a gauge of the immune system’s ability to fight opportunistic infections.  After just a few months on ART, Daniel’s CD4 count soared from a low 94 to 200.  He quickly gained weight, and when he felt healthy and strong enough, he took a course on metal fabrication, hoping it will land him a job.  Then he could support his family and send his kids to school.

Now an active Adherence Support Worker, Daniel reflects, “When I started taking the drugs my strength increased, which allowed me to do some work at home, in the community, and at the health clinic.”

Daniel beams with pride when he sees clients he has counseled at Mahatma Gandhi Health Center in Kabwe who are careful about taking their ARVs every day, adhering to their essential drug treatment and living healthier lives.  Daniel is one of the 172 Adherence Support Workers who continue to reach over 8,000 clients, helping to ensure the health and livelihood of his community.