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Focusing
on a positive impact

Strengthening Supply Chain Management for an HIV Free World

By Dirk Tuchbreiter, 2018 J&J Secondee

This year’s International AIDS Conference is different than any other to me. It’s different, because I now have a stake in the game like never before. Unlike previous years, my day-to-day is now dedicated to making life-saving primary care and HIV medications available when and where they are needed across sub-Saharan Africa, in particular for mobile populations like truck drivers and sex workers. If you had asked me a year ago, I would never have predicted that my career as a Senior Strategic Sourcing Manager at Johnson & Johnson in Switzerland would take me down this path. Thanks to the Johnson & Johnson Secondment Program, I now have the chance to apply my expertise in a completely new health field and contribute to the world’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a Secondee to North Star Alliance (North Star).

As I reflect on this year’s conference theme, “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges,” I see North Star’s work as critical to bridging access to HIV services for marginalized and hard to reach populations. The organization’s network of Blue Box Roadside Wellness Centres stretches across 13 African countries, bringing primary health and HIV care services to people on the move, and the communities they interact with. The network is built around the understanding of mobile populations’ lifestyles and knowing that their health is not confined to one country’s borders, but travels with them in hard to reach areas, and so must their health services. My task, along with my peer Secondee Dimitri Bois supporting North Star’s east African team, is to collaborate with the North Star team in making the delivery of health supplies and medications to their clinics (inventory and stock management processes) as efficient and reliable as possible, so patients have easy access to what that need, when they need it.

Supply Chain Considerations

As we’ve seen from the discussions at this year’s AIDS conference, delivery of life-saving medication is especially important for HIV patients, making an innovative and robust supply chain all the more critical. The advantages of a strong supply chain for patients and service providers are evident: increasing reliability and availability of medication, avoiding shortages, eliminating the need for expensive emergency orders and shipments, as well as increasing overall efficiency and transparency.

With advances in access to care, the number of patients eligible for HIV treatment is constantly increasing, meaning more and more patients receive antiretroviral therapies that require a daily dose of medication for the rest of their lives. In addition, the regulatory requirements on documentation, including example traceability, are increasing for organizations like North Star. As a result, the North Star supply chain is challenged to operate more efficiently year over year and eliminate operational costs wherever possible to maximize their resources. To add to this, many of North Star’s Blue Box clinics operate in very rural and remote areas, often with little infrastructure, and in countries where the overall availability of medication is generally a challenge.

Training on Replenishment Strategies during a Workshop at North Star Alliance

Rolling Out a Consistent Approach

Given this context, the capabilities of the supply chain need to constantly be reviewed and adapted to meet new demands. To optimizethe inventory and stock management processes at the Blue Box clinics, we have identified the following key elements:

  • Improving Master Data Management (e.g., implement usage of unique item numbers)
  • Globally aligning the replenishment strategy and executing in line with local requirements (e.g., implementing algorithms to determine reorder level and quantity)
  • Harmonizing day-to-day activities around Inventory Management (e.g., checklists for receiving, counting, etc.)
  • Standardizing storage requirements (e.g., implementing standard bins, including labelling to store medication)
  • Training and empowering staff

Consistently applying this approach across the network of Blue Box clinics will enhance North Star’s ability to operate in various countries, with various partners in a standardized way, while still adapting to local requirements. Above all, this streamlined supply chain approach moves us one step closer to our ultimate goal, serving the patients.

I am so proud to be supporting this dedicated North Star team on the front lines of care. By combining our respective knowledge, we are strengthening the capabilities of the North Star team so that they are equipped to keep Blue Box clinics well supplied and high-functioning in support of an HIV free world.

About the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact Secondment Program

Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, Johnson & Johnson employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.