The HIV Nurse Education Project (HIVNEP) began in 2006.  It was the first project the Brighton – Lusaka Health Link embarked on and was developed following discussions with Mercy Mbewe who was at the time Director of Nursing at UTH. 

I remember one time, I think it was in 2000, we recorded almost close to 36 deaths and we noticed that there was never a day in a month when you didn’t bury two or three nurses. So what should we do as nurses about this?”

““I find it challenging, the fact that over the years I have stayed in job things have changed dramatically since the advent of HIV/AIDS.  Whilst we are grappling with the infection we are also grappling with the fact that we have had a major, major brain drain from this hospital, which is the national hospital and it’s the flagship for health services in Zambia. We have had a lot of people moving out. Most of our senior nurses have left in all areas of specialities and from a projected 1500 establishment currently, we have just 500 nurses.

Mercy had a vision that nurses were part of the solution to tackling the HIV epidemic in Zambia and highlighted the need to enhance the nurse’s role and to motivate nurses to make a difference:

Mercy linked up with Eileen Nixon, nurse consultant in HIV in Brighton and Sian Edwards who was at the time a Senior Lecturer in Nursing at the Institute (now School) of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Brighton to develop the HIVNEP.  A detailed questionnaire was sent to 30 nurses in Lusaka to identify their current level of knowledge, what they felt their needs were and focus groups were held with Southern African nurses working in Brighton.  With funding from the National HIV Nurses Association (NHIVNA) Sian and Eileen visited Lusaka. A six day course was developed that covered wide-ranging topics including HIV pathogenesis and the role of nursing in caring for HIV patients. Stigma and discrimination workshops were included.  

Nurses attending the first HIVNEP courses.  Evaluations included:

 “I have appreciated the different modes of teaching. It has really helped and enhanced my understanding.”

“It was very valuable. I have learnt a lot. It will really have an impact on both my nursing practice and teaching.”

In the interests of sustainability, six Zambian nurses from the first cohort were trained as trainers to deliver the course independently.

 The project has been well-received and its success manifest in a number of ways including:

  1. The development of a 1 week course covering wide ranging aspects of HIV from basic biology, clinical manifestations and treatment through to stigma training and the role of the nurse in caring for people living with HIV that is now included in the curriculum for all trainee nurses
  2. The training of Zambian nurses and educators to deliver the course
  3. >200 nurses trained
  4. Roll out from UTH to Kafue and Mwumba
  5. Development of HIV in the work place policy adopted by the Zambian Ministry of Health
  6. Development of Post Exposure Prophylaxis policy for University Teaching Hospital, Zambia
  7. Improved attendance of male partners at antenatal clinics
  8. Increased HIV testing of fathers
  9. Improved management of HIV and other infections in pregnancy
  10. The instigation of Nursing Grand Rounds