Using pharmacies to halt epidemics

In many developing countries, the neighborhood pharmacy is often the first—and sometimes only—stop for people seeking health services. Yet pharmacists are not always equipped to provide clients with information about serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis (TB). Recognizing pharmacists’ front-line role, PATH is collaborating with pharmacies and physicians in Cambodia, Ukraine, and Vietnam to direct clients toward appropriate treatment and support services.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, which shoulder high burdens of TB and face an emerging TB–HIV epidemic, PATH is working with pharmacy staff to strengthen interpersonal skills and knowledge about client referrals and testing. We also are collaborating with private physicians—key health care providers in urban areas—to strengthen their role in expanding community access to high-quality HIV and TB services. In 2008, PATH trained 250 pharmacists and pharmacy staff in three urban districts in Vietnam and implemented a referral system now used by more than half of pharmacies in these districts. In Cambodia, PATH worked with the National Tuberculosis Program to establish links between private-sector pharmacies and formal TB treatment services. To fuel these new approaches, PATH conducted advocacy, communication, and social mobilization workshops with representatives of several Asian countries, who in turn are encouraging their country governments to support TB control.

In Ukraine, PATH used a similar model to address a rapidly growing HIV epidemic. We trained pharmacists in three cities to provide effective counseling, information, and services to high-risk clients such as injection-drug users and sex workers. Twenty-two pharmacies distributed more than 500,000 informational materials with HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention messages. The project also established a referral system to AIDS centers, STI clinics, and service organizations. These activities have built support for people at high risk of HIV and increased use of health and social services.

Partners

All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS centers and sexually transmitted infection clinics in Cherkasy, Kryvyi Rih, and Kyiv, Ukraine

International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine

Local HIV-service organizations in Ukraine

Municipal health department, Phnom Penh

Municipal health departments in Cambodia

National Centre for Tuberculosis & Leprosy Control, Cambodia

National Tuberculosis Program, Cambodia

National Tuberculosis Program, Vietnam

Pharmacists Association of Cambodia

Provincial departments of health in Da Nang, Hai Phong, Khanh Hoa, Thai Nguyen, Thua Thien-Hue, and Vinh Long, Vietnam

Provincial health departments in Cambodia

State Enterprise “Farmatsia,” Ukraine

Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

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Customer receiving testing information in Ukrainian pharmacy
PATH-trained pharmacists have dispensed information and HIV-prevention messages to more than 500,000 clients in Ukraine.