Lekwa & Chief Albert Luthuli nurses posing with the MEC Ms. Candith Mashego - Dlamini

Lekwa & Chief Albert Luthuli nurses posing with the MEC Ms. Candith Mashego – Dlamini

On 6 July, 650 nurses were awarded diplomas at the Mpumalanga College of Nursing, while 225 NIMART nurses graduated days later as NIMART competent at a ceremony held at the Graceland Casino in the Gert Sibanda district. These nurses have been trained, mentored and assessed on the 54 competency requirements of the NIMART programme.

Of the 225 competent nurses, 119 are from Gert Sibande district, an NHI pilot district with a high prevalence of HIV. The district has a shortage of doctors and it is believed that the graduation of the NIMART nurses will assist the district in improving the clinical outcomes of HIV patients.

Elphas Nkosi, Provincial Director of the HIV/AIDS, STI and TB services said:  “Without this group of NIMART competent nurses, health care service delivery at primary health care facilities would be impossible.

“In 2010 we embarked on task-shifting process in the province whereby nurses were trained to initiate ARVs and manage HIV-positive clients to increase the uptake of ARVs. We therefore launched the Nurses Initiated and Managed ART (NIMART) programme.”

Dr Mantsebeng Ditshego from BroadReach Health Care, a development partner funded by Pepfar, which provides technical assistance to strengthen health systems in the Gert Sibande district health, said: “We are quite humble and honored to be associated with the Mpumalanga department of Health. We thank our funders USAID/Pepfar for funding us to provide support to Mpumalanga.”

Mpumalanga MEC of health and social development Candith Mashego-Dlamini said: “Since 2010 we initiated 1 234 nurses on the NIMART programme, and 225 have been declared competent and confident, while the rest are still on mentorship. The group of 225 nurses is now ready to initiate and manage HIV positive clients.

“The impact of the NIMART programme has already been felt in the province. This is backed by statistics of clients initiated on ARV’s. In 2008/09 there were 35 698 people on ARVs. In 2009/10 that number rose to 70 064 and then to 111 402 in 2010/11. In the current period of 2011/12, there are 144 069 people on ARVs.”

At 46.1%, Gert Sibande District has the highest HIV prevalence not only in the province but also amongst all the 52 districts in the country. It is followed by Ehlanzeni, with 35.8%, and Nkangala, with 29.6%.

“We need to seriously intensify our efforts on the prevention and reduction of the spread of this epidemic,” said Mashego-Dlamini.

Nkosi said that the efforts to train NIMART nurses would assist in reducing the number of new HIV infections in Gert Sibande, would prolong the lives of HIV-positive orphans and reduce the number of child-headed households.