Thanks to the new partnership with UNDP Georgia, UNFPA Georgia, the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) and Tanadgoma, Caritas Czech Republic started working on the promotion of HIV self-testing in Georgia. With this in mind, our project will roll-out different behavioral messages aiming at mobilizing the youth to conduct HIV self-testing, and – based on their effectiveness – will contribute to evidence-based policymaking of National Center of Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC).
Why HIV Testing is Important
Although with its 8 765 registered cases of HIV infection Georgia belongs to HIV/AIDS low prevalence countries, the rapid spread of the disease is expected soon unless urgent measures are undertaken immediately. Notably, estimates indicate that approximately 40% of infected persons in Georgia are not aware of their HIV-positive status. Unfortunately, the uptake of testing services remains low, increasing the risk of further transmission and deteriorating the quality of life of people with late diagnoses. This is mainly resulted from low awareness and motivation of people to conduct HIV testing, due – among other factors – to also the HIV-related stigma in the country.
“People’s knowledge of their HIV status is essential to the success of the HIV response. For HIV-positive individuals, timely linkage to treatment will ensure optimal health outcomes. Consequently, intensification of HIV testing is the priority issue for the Georgian government. Caritas Czech Republic through the accumulated expertise of both Georgian and Czech will contribute to the introduction of tailored policies and campaigns for the promotion of HIV self-testing in Georgia.“ notes Rusudan Chkhubianishvili, Caritas Czech Republic’s project manager.
To Increase the Acceptance of HIV Testing
In the framework of the project – Behavioral Insights for Low Uptake of HIV Testing in Georgia, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, CCR will conduct the project activities with the ultimate goal to increase and intensify the acceptance of HIV testing by a key population. With this in mind, we will use the Czech expertise and support evidence-based HIV testing policy decisions in Georgia. The results of the project will be handed over to NCDC, National Aids Center and HIV researchers. Our organization will also work to increase the capacities of selected health professionals to provide stigma-free confidential and trustworthy counseling to youth through the protocol developed within the project.
A specific innovation of the project is to prepare and spread out behaviorally informed messages and test their effectiveness in motivating key population to conduct HIV self-testing. Based on these Randomized Controlled Trial testing results, the State will be informed which message worked the best. Subsequently, relevant state institutions will use this information to design nationwide solutions for the increase of HIV testing in the country.
Our Role in Georgia's Health Care
Since 2015, Caritas Czech Republic has been supporting the Georgian Government efforts to reform the health care and social systems. Thus, involvement in the Czech/UNDP-funded project is a part of Caritas Czech Republic's broader contribution to improvement of the country's health care system.
In August 2021, Caritas Czech Republic started piloting a Slovak-made innovative solution Scase that will help Georgia’s primary health care system in measuring different vital signs of the patient, which helps not only to monitor patient´s status, but also to detect some of the non-communicable diseases like hypertension or diabetes.
In July 2021, we presented a Unified Electronic Management Information and a 0-6 Child Health and Development surveillance Information Systems to the Ministry of Health of Georgia. These systems will be used nationwide for the increase of the quality of care provided by the primary health care facilities to their patients. Moreover, CCR experts developed clinical practice guidelines and protocols and are training the doctors and nurses in 16 rural ambulatories of Dusheti Municipality in their practical application.
In addition to the trainings, the PHC experts are providing coaching and regular supportive supervision to the medical staff in the rural ambulatories of Dusheti with the aim to engage family physicians in quality improvement activities. Those are essential to achieving the aim of improving the health of the population, enhancing patient experiences and outcomes and improving PHC provider capacity
Furthermore, after the COVID-19 outbreak, CCR rapidly tailored its activities to cope with the pandemic, and with this in mind, conducted online trainings in the management of the COVID-19 cases, post-covid complications, and vaccination side effects for rural doctors. Moreover, CCR handed over 50 computers to local ambulatories to effectively implement their clinical practice.