Exchanging ideas and best practices on serving key populations

Key population representatives

CDC representatives exchanging ideas and best practices during a visit to the Mpowerment site in Ekurhuleni

Key population (KP) representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and Kenya visited South Africa (SA) from September 11-15, 2017. The purpose of the five-day visit was to give an opportunity to the CDC Kenya KP team to learn from CDC SA’s successes and challenges in serving KPs, and also to allow country teams to share best practices and to exchange ideas on improving the uptake of HIV testing and improving positive yield among men who have sex with men (MSM).

During the learning visit, the Atlanta and Kenya teams were given a critical overview of some of SA’s KP programs targeting MSM, people who inject drugs (PWID), and offenders. Led by Helen Savva, CDC SA’s Key Populations Lead, the country teams visited sites where CDC-funded key populations programs are implemented, including OUT Well-Being in Pretoria, the Mpowerment site in Ekurhuleni, and Zonderwater Correctional Services Centre in Cullinan.

OUT Well-Being provides health services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, MSM, sex workers, and injecting drug users, and provides HIV testing, counseling, PrEP, and antiretroviral treatment. Mpowerment is an adaptation of the U.S. Mpowerment Project that provides multilevel HIV prevention intervention to MSM. Zonderwater Correctional Services Centre provides a peer-based HIV and TB prevention program targeted at offenders.

The CDC Kenya team was impressed by what they saw and heard during the site visits. Mr. Wyckliffe Obwiri, Public Health Specialist for Key and Priority Populations at CDC Kenya noted, “The South Africa Program exhibited a situation where there is willingness of gay and MSM implementing partners to expand and innovate programming to reach undiagnosed gay and MSM with HIV services in addition to the already existing strong HIV service cascades for gay-identified men.”

“It was evident that the SA program had strong collaborative relationships among implementing partners. This is an area the Kenya program will be focusing on to ensure we draw synergy from the strengths of each implementing partner. Also, the PWID program in SA has hinged its strategy on public health approach (e.g., harm reduction, needle pick-up at Basheba site) and not just HIV prevention. These are simple and applicable elements that the Kenya program can apply to ensure we scale up our coverage in PWID programming,” Mr. Obwiri said.

Dr. Trista Bingham, CDC Atlanta’s KPs Lead, was equally impressed. She noted that the offenders program was exceptional, and that the PWID program was vibrant with signs of progressive expansion.

While the visit focused on Kenya learning from CDC SA’s successes and challenges in serving KPs, the local team also exchanged best practices and ideas with its counterparts. Ms. Savva said this was important because Kenya and South Africa have similarities, although the legal environments are very different.

“We were very excited to learn that CDC Kenya had been implementing partner notification with a lot of success. In addition, CDC Atlanta stressed the importance of providing a comprehensive package of prevention interventions – including PrEP – at all sites serving MSM. We will definitely be incorporating this into our programs,” she added.