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Nurses are Key to Reaching Global HIV Goals

August 27, 2014

ICAP recently celebrated major milestones in its support of HIV prevention, care and treatment programs around the world. Through ICAP support, over 1 million people have received access to live-saving treatment and grown to support over 3,380 sites. Key to reaching global HIV treatment goals is the need for an expanded clinical role for nurses and midwives, including initiating and managing patients on antiretroviral treatment (ART), in countries that face a shortage of health care workers. New ambitious treatment goals for adults and children as well as for the scale-up of the Option B+ for PMTCT compel the need to continue pre-service and in-service education, training and mentorship for the nursing workforce.

“It is critically important that nurses receive adequate training and support to meet new demands,” said Dr. Susan Strasser, the new director for ICAP’s Global Nurse Capacity Building Program (GNCBP) that includes the Nurse Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI) and General Nursing components.

Through GNCBP and NEPI, ICAP is working to meet these challenges by collaborating with Ministries of Health in sub-Saharan African countries focusing on strengthening nursing and midwifery education, enhancing opportunities for nurses and midwives to gain skills, and transforming the milieu in which nurses practice and enhance partnerships with national and regional nursing networks.

In the past three years, ICAP-supported programs have trained over 9,000 nurses and midwives and scaled up education by supporting the first PhD degree program in Malawi, provided tuition support towards higher education in Zambia, implemented simulation labs throughout Lesotho and established a central nursing library in Rwanda.

In a letter to the science editor at the New York Times, Strasser detailed the importance of nurses to the health system in Africa. “When HIV-positive patients seek care in Africa, they are far more likely to be treated by a nurse,” she wrote. “Nurses deliver their babies, immunize their children and treat their ailments, whether Ebola, tuberculosis, malaria or cholera.”

ICAP’s approach to building the nursing workforce in sub-Saharan Africa is also described in a recent article for Academic Medicine led by Lyn Middleton and with co-authors from sub Saharan Africa and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).