Over the past three years since the implementation of the Action Plan, a series of strategies and measures have been implemented in Liangshan Prefecture. The local government and residences carried out all-round health education, conducted prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), strengthened HIV screening, and implemented standard treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, they enforced drug control and rehabilitation, focused on HIV intervention among key populations, and aimed to mobilization of social forces to promote poverty alleviation through healthcare.
The local government and its people have continuously searched for new and innovative ways to provide HIV/AIDS health education, mainly based on local sociocultural characteristics of the Yi ethnic group. It focused on promoting the formation of “active prevention” environments and advocated a healthy and civilized lifestyle. According to characteristics of different populations and ethnic minorities’ customs, information, education, and communication (IEC) materials with bilingual and easy-to-understand language were developed to ensure full coverage of publicity and education. During the “World AIDS Day”, “International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking”, and the Yi Ethnic Festival, the local government made every effort to advance publicity and education on HIV prevention. It expanded the combination of regular and centralized health promotion to guarantee effectiveness, proposing that publicity on HIV prevention be combined with activities such as poverty alleviation, health literacy promotion, establishment of a “drug-free families” campaign, and rural activities for culture, science, and technology. In addition, professional publicity teams composed of those who understood local culture and knew the Yi language well were set up to carry out face-to-face education through home visits (4). Also, these teams used schools as the primary site for health education to comprehensively improve health literacy of the new generation. Sexual ethics, sexual responsibility, and safe sexual behaviors became the focus of education and were included in the training of HIV prevention in schools at all levels. In 2020, the public awareness rate of HIV-related knowledge was 95.84%, which increased by 61.22% compared with the baseline (34.62%) in 2017. Meanwhile, the awareness rate of HIV-related knowledge in 2020 among infected persons was 96.24%, an increase of 39.63% compared with the baseline (56.61%) in 2017. In addition, the number of high-risk groups that had multiple sexual partners and did not use condoms decreased. Patient medication compliance was also greatly increased.
Expansion of HIV Testing
In an attempt to maximally identify people living with HIV/AIDS, HIV testing was carried out among people with 18 months of age and above in free health check-ups for people in 8 counties severely affected by HIV in 2018, including the 4 key epidemic counties that had HIV prevalence over 1% among local residents and 4 other counties (Puge, Jinyang, Xide, and Ganluo). Meanwhile, provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling (PITC) was conducted among 100% of hospital inpatients, and 70% of outpatients in departments such as obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, and urology of medical institutions at all levels in the 4 key counties. In addition, the informed and non-refusal HIV testing services among women of childbearing age was intensified, and free pre-marital healthcare, HIV testing for pregnant women in their first visit, and re-testing for pregnant women before childbirth were also implemented. Also, the grassroots HIV prevention teams in township health centers guided village-level health workers to mobilize HIV testing. Village doctors provided a pregnancy testing service for HIV-infected women of childbearing age and helped mobilize and send them to medical institutions to receive healthcare services during pregnancy. All detainees in detention centers, such as drug maintenance treatment clinics, drug rehabilitation centers, and prisons, were tested for HIV on entry into the facilities.
The four key county CDC and township health centers established a management system for tracking people living with HIV/AIDS. Once there were newly found untreated patients in the CDC or other medical institutions, they would be promptly referred to local antiretroviral treatment (ART) center for treatment. In this process, the strategy of “First diagnosis by medical institutions, seamless referral by CDC, timely treatment by designated medical institutions, and follow-up management by village health center” was put in place to avoid missing cases and ensure quality of treatment (5-6). Meanwhile, in order to achieve full coverage of HIV prevention and treatment services and precise management, the “1+M+N” triangle model was set up based on townships. “1” represented the responsible person in charge of township government who was also the first person in charge of HIV prevention and control in the town; “M” signified township responsible persons and health workers; and “N” was composed of village doctors, village health workers, and village maternal and child workers. In this model, several local innovative approaches were explored. The first one was called “Budi-ri”. As local people did not know what viruses and bacteria were, and they called the microorganisms that were harmful to their health “Budi-ri”. In the “1+M+N” model, village health workers showed a cartoon of “Budi-ri” and vividly demonstrated changes on the number of “Budi-ri” under standardized medication, non-standard medication, and no medication to the patients, which was of great help to the treatment work. The second was the practice of the “from mouth to stomach” strategy. In order to ensure correct and standardized medication and prevent treatment failure, village health workers delivered medicine to the patients’ homes, watched them take medicine, let them open their mouth after swallowing to ensure that the medication was consumed, and ensured the dosages were correct. The third one was called “color code management”. According to the viral load testing results, cases of treatment failure were marked with “red”, and treatment success were marked with “blue”, which was convenient for classification management and helped to improve patients’ cognition of their own treatment.
Interventions Among Key Populations
Condom use was vigorously promoted by carrying out training on condom use, and free condoms were put in places where people would always see them in waiting areas of health institutions. Among HIV serodiscordant couples, local health staff conducted face-to-face health education and condom use guidance every quarter, mobilized them to receive ART, and further strengthened patients’ follow-up management. HIV testing for the negative spouse was conducted at least once a year and provided pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) services for those who were untreated or poorly treated. Meanwhile, it also strengthened comprehensive interventions on drug abuse, including standardization of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) clinics management and improvement of compliance of drug users, maintaining treatment among drug addicts continuously. Extension points were set up in villages and towns in areas without maintenance treatment clinics, improving the accessibility of maintenance treatment. In addition, the connection between compulsory isolation and detoxification, community detoxification, community rehabilitation, and drug maintenance treatment was also further strengthened.
Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission
During the implementation of the “Action Plan” prevention of mother-to-child transmission was further strengthened. It included HIV testing during premarital examinations and the provision of health consultations, healthcare services, pregnancy and contraception guidance for infected women of childbearing age to help avoidance of unwanted pregnancy and timely referrals for treatment. With the guidance of family planning services, early detection of pregnant women, timely delivery of maternal and child healthcare services, and HIV testing were conducted. Pregnant women with HIV infection were included in the high-risk population management, and were urged to receive regular pregnancy and childbirth healthcare, relevant auxiliary examinations, and hospital delivery. Free hospital delivery services were provided for infected pregnant women, and standardized prevention and intervention services were provided for them and their newborns (7-8). Those waiting to give birth and pregnant women living in remote areas were encouraged to be hospitalized for delivery in advance. Additionally, it advocated “one-to-one” tracking of infants born to pregnant women, guiding them to take preventive ART drugs, feeding, and early diagnosis of HIV.