MaxART: Preparing the Ground for Early Access to ART for All
July 15, 2014
Swaziland, with the highest HIV prevalence in the world, has successfully scaled up HIV testing and treatment. In the past few years, the country achieved near-nationwide access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Among many interventions leading to this success is Maximizing ART for Better Health and Zero New HIV Infections (MaxART). The achievements of the first phase (2011-2014) lay the ground for MaxART’s second phase (2014-2017). In the coming years, the focus will be on implementing the demonstration project Early Access to ART for All, to put into practice the exiting evidence that early ART has not only individual health benefits, but also contributes to the prevention of HIV transmission.
The first phase of MaxART focused on the implementation of innovative, evidence-informed, and rights-based interventions. Moreover, community and health systems were integrated, to address barriers to HIV testing, care and treatment, and retention in care. We particularly focused on hard to reach men and adolescents, and embraced community owned and driven solutions. After three years of implementation, Swaziland is on track. The country experienced the highest annual HIV testing rate ever. Ninety percent of the people currently eligible for treatment, are actively on ART, while retention has improved.
The programme's key success factors are the strong leadership of the Ministry of Health of Swaziland and the multidisciplinary approach of the consortium. Other crucial elements are the integration of community-based and facility-based interventions as well as the continuous gathering of information and making adjustments based on findings of social science research, experiences of people living with HIV, and human rights monitoring. However, working with partners from different backgrounds can be quite challenging. This is why we regularly organise sharing, linking, and learning meetings. All in all, Swaziland and the MaxART partners are ready for the second phase: implementing Early Access to ART for All.
This article has been published in the MaxART e-news edition 5 - July 2014