Matovu Zachariah Jamil, VMMC champion and health worker hero

Beginning June, 2013, The USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) project supported the Kibuli Police Training School (PTS) voluntary medical male circumcision clinic in Kampala, Uganda to improve the quality and safety of services. Support included rapid mobilization of clients for VMMC for HIV prevention, as the current uptake was as low as 5–10 clients per month.  This low outcome was partly attributed to several challenges, including: safety concerns; cultural barriers; myths and perceptions of VMMC; and a policy change introducing a tetanus vaccine, which require clients to receive two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart before the procedure.

Meet Matovu Zachariah Jamil, a 25-year-old volunteer counsellor and mobilizer, who used his example as a circumcised man to attest to its numerous benefits and start the very difficult conversation among adult males and their partners. Trained by ASSIST, Matovu goes from village to village in the catchment area of the Kibuli PTS clinic every week—a radius of about 20km—talking to boys, men and women about VMMC. He speaks of its importance and explains the package of care, the need for those with partners to come together for the service, and the need for tetanus vaccination before circumcision. He brings with him information, education and communication materials, appointment cards, and registers, on which he records those who accept to take up circumcision. The following week, he follows up with clients that did not come to the facility for VMMC with a phone call to find out what happened and re-schedule their appointments.  Upon returning to the villages, he checks up on clients who underwent circumcision and reminds those with upcoming appointments not to miss their second dose of tetanus vaccine and circumcision.  Matovu does all this work without any facilitation or incentive; rather, he is driven by a passion to see a reduction in HIV infections.

Numerous times, Matovu has been shunned, abused, chased away—and even threatened with violence for “spreading an Islamizing, impotent causing practice;” however, he remains a VMMC champion.

Through Matovu’s efforts, by August, 2016, Kibuli PTS clinic reached over 50 clients who accepted circumcision. Of the clients who received the first dose of tetanus vaccine, 96% returned for the second dose and circumcision in August, 2016. All clients circumcised at Kibuli PTS clinic since October 2015 have kept their appointments for post-operative follow up at 48 hours and 7 days and the proportion of clients experiencing adverse events following VMMC is close to zero. His charisma is compelling, despite his young age: “. . . it makes you want to follow all the instructions that he tells you,” mentions one client at the clinic.

The results speak volumes for Kibuli PTS VMMC clinic and for Uganda as a country in the fight against HIV, as scale up of VMMC for HIV prevention relies upon safety, quality of services, and mobilization of eligible clients with the right information. Despite his youth, Matovu has dedicated himself to saving lives through VMMC. Matovu Zachariah Jamil is a true, frontline health worker hero in the fight against HIV.

On Monday 5 December, 2016, Jamil Zachariah Matovu was recognized as a 2016 PEPFAR HERO for his outstanding work in the fight against HIV in Uganda. US ambassador H.E Deborah Malac presented the awards to the honorees.
H.E Deborah Malac, US ambassador to Uganda ( right) presents the 2016 PEPFAR Heroes award to Jamil ( center) while Dr Anna Lawino (ASSIST, second from left) and a mission official look on.
H.E Deborah Malac, US ambassador to Uganda ( right) presents the 2016 PEPFAR Heroes award to Jamil ( center) while Dr Anna Lawino (ASSIST, second from left) and a mission official look on.
Date 
April 03, 2017
Authors 
Anna Lawino, USAID ASSIST Project, Uganda
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