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Repeat HIV Testing for Pregnant Women in Kenya and Tanzania

Our first Millennium Villages Project (MVP) summer internship blogger is Dylan O’Connor, a second-year medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S). Dylan has had an interest in global health ever since volunteering with the Peace Corps in Tanzania and is currently interning at the Millennium Villages site in Mbola, Tanzania. Dr. Yanis Ben Amor, Earth Institute research scientists & Dylan’s research supervisor, introduced him to a recent study which showed that current prenatal HIV screening practices in Kenya leaves approximately 2.6% of HIV+ women undiagnosed, and thus untreated (Kinuthia et al). Dr. Ben Amor proposed a follow-up study to further investigate effective HIV screening regimens for pregnant women in Tanzania and Kenya. The study will follow two cohorts of women (one in Mbola, Tanzania and one in Sauri, Kenya), screening them for HIV at each of four prenatal care visits to find any patterns in the timing of seroconversion (converting from a HIV- status to an HIV+ status). The study will help to establish a prenatal HIV screening regimen, which minimizes the number of pregnant women who go undiagnosed and untreated. Dylan will be working to set up the study in Mbola, Tanzania. Ivy Mushamiri, another MVP intern, will be facilitating the study in Sauri, Kenya.

Monday, June 25th, 2012

After seven days of travel and preparations, I have begun my first day of work at the Millennium Village Project (MVP) office in Tabora, Tanzania. I arrived in Tabora Saturday night after a 15 hour bus ride from Dar es Salaam, got a hotel room with a shower and proceeded to wash off my journey and collapse under my mosquito net.

The next day I met up with three students from the Earth Institute, Columbia University. Danielle, Debi and Vinay are working with MVP for their summer field internship through the Earth Institute’s Masters of Public Administration in Development Policy and will be my roommates for the next eight weeks. Today, Danielle introduced me to the MVP staff.

I spent most of the morning discussing the project with Mwarami Selemani, acting Health Coordinator of the MVP Mbola site. Mwarami and I identified five goals for the next eight weeks:

- Procurement of HIV testing kits.
- Selection of participating health centers within the Mbola cluster.
- Selection of a Data Manager who will facilitate the study and relay data back to New York upon my return.
- Training of health center staff regarding data collection.
- Training of Data Manager.

I will format future blogs to address these five goals. We are currently in the process of procurement of HIV test kits and selection of participating health centers and are moving along smoothly. Fortunately, Selemani is also the Sexual and Reproductive Health Facilitator and has already collected 6,000 test kits out of an estimated 6,600 needed, and provided me with a detailed profile of each of the six health centers in the Mbola cluster. Thus we hope to have these first two goals completed by next week, with the selection of the Data Manager to begin next week.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned.

Kinuthia J., Kiarie NJ, Farquhar C, Richardson B, et al. Cofactors for HIV-1 Incidence During Pregnancy and Postpartum Period. Current HIV Research. October 2010: 8(7): 510–514

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