We have for so long been waiting for this to come out. Finally, a week ago, the Department of Health signed an administrative order (2017-009) with the subject:
Policies and Guidelines in the Conduct of HIV Testing Services in Health Facilities
Click here for the file:2017 DOH_AO_2017-0019
Some highlights of particular interest to the community are:
- Community-based HIV screening is defined as “Non-laboratory rapid HIV screening procedure done outside a health facility by a trained member of community-based organizations or groups”
- ALL pregnant women and confirmed TB Patients will be routinely offered HIV testing
- Community-based HIV screening…”shall be offered to key populations. Trained and supervised lay providers can independently conduct safe and effective HIV screening using rapid diagnostic kits.”
- Health care workers (doctors, nurses, medical technologists, midwives) are allowed to perform the procedure (in reference to HIV screening, section VI.B)
- rHIVda or Rapid HIV diagnostic algorithm is in the same document. This essentially addresses the 3 weeks (or more) of waiting time for patients who got tested reactive awaiting treatment. Of course, clients may be link to care without the confirmatory in accordance to Section VI.F (Connection to care) with reference to the Department Circular 2016-0171.
So what does this mean?
It doesn’t mean shit if our social hygiene and health offices won’t respect the order from the Secretary. It means the world for the hard-to-reach community finally with options to access screening at the comfort of their own home, or car, or shop, or wherever.
It means more and more people can access HIV screening, especially those who don’t want to go to clinics.
It means more and more organizations get to engage in the program. It also means more capacity building is needed.
It means someone has to mapped municipalities and cities without HIV testing services since ALL TB patients and pregnant women will have to be suggested to undergo HIV screening.
It means midwives, especially the private ones, will and can have the ability to do screening to reach more women.
It means the community will have to partner with their local units.
It means the local government will have to partner with the community counterparts for community based screening to happen, and to be successful.
It means more investments around training and quality assurance.
It means a lot, lot more beyond this page.
Above all, it means saving more lives.