Mobile Clinic Program Turns 10!
The GAIA Elizabeth Taylor Mobile Health Clinics were launched in rural Malawi ten years ago this month with foundational support from The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). The program was inspired by the successful deployment of mobile units to provide care to people living with HIV in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. After that success, Dame Elizabeth Taylor wondered why the same approach couldn’t be utilized to improve access for people in remote Sub-Saharan Africa. She asked, “If the people can’t get to the clinics, why can’t we bring the healthcare to the people!” With her support, and careful planning by GAIA U.S. and Malawi staff, the mobile health clinics were born. The initial approach – that is still employed today – was to embed HIV testing and care among other basic healthcare services to avoid stigma.
From two clinics launched in 2008 to seven clinics making 35 stops each week in 2018, we now have served more than 1.5 million clients and have seen a decrease in HIV-positive test results from 23% to 7% in those 10 years. Meanwhile, we have contributed to improved health in Malawi, where annual AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 65%, from 47,000 in 2008 to 17,000 in 2017 and life expectancy has increased from 54 to more than 63 years.
As the epidemic has evolved, so too has GAIA’s focus. Using the mobile clinic model, we are aiming to achieve UNAIDS’ HIV treatment targets where we work — 90% of people living with HIV know their status; 90% of those are on treatment; and 90% of those are virally suppressed, or noninfectious, a strategy to break the AIDS epidemic. In 2014, the UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board in Geneva commended the GAIA Elizabeth Taylor Mobile Clinics as a potential model for serving rural high-risk populations and achieving 90-90-90 by 2020. Last year, the UNAIDS Fast Track Team visited our mobile clinics to further learn from the model. Recently, a UNAIDS report identified gaps in testing and treatment as a primary barrier to achieving these targets. GAIA’s mobile health clinics will continue to nimbly adapt at the forefront of ending the AIDS epidemic in rural, remote hotspots where we work.
Watch our short video to learn more about how our mobile health clinics work to end AIDS!
Todd Schafer Executive Director