HIV: Caregivers commend Nigerian Government interventions

Eme Offiong, Calabar

Caregivers in Antiretroviral Therapy, (ART) facilities have commended the Nigerian Government for its interventions and support to people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, HIV/AIDS.
The caregivers, most of whom are heads of ART centres in Cross River State, southern Nigeria, made the commendation during a media tour of ART centres in parts of Cross River State organized by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA.
Accessing Treatment
Catherine Eyo, the ART Coordinator at the General Hospital Calabar, told journalists that the centre had an inflow of 3,250 clients.
Eyo said “here at our facility, our clients confidentiality is most important to us. This is because we need to continue helping those with the virus get access to treatment. For those already with us, we give them daily health talks on nutrition, hygiene, adherence to medication; and assist some patients with livelihood training. Despite the inadequate space at this facility, we have all the necessary tools to work with. We are able to track our patients wherever they may be for follow up and for those with suppressed viral load, we refer them to a community pharmacy just to ensure they have easy access to medications.”
Helen Osim, the Chief Community Health Officer at the Primary Healthcare Centre, Big Qua town, Calabar said the facility was engaged in counselling and testing of pregnant women as well as others including babies born in the facility.
According to Osim, “we undertake a lot of deliveries here in a single month. In May alone, we took delivery of about 20 babies and through our dedicated ART centre counseled and tested both mothers and the infants for the virus. We, through SACA have the training and liaise with Traditional Birth Attendants, TBA, to offer ART services to people living with the virus whether they utilize government facilities or patronize the locals”, noted Osim.
Weekly Outreach
At another primary healthcare facility visited in Akim Qua clan, Calabar, Nsa Ekpenyong, the Chief Community Health Officer said that the ART centre, due to its location, conducts intensive home visits and care of reactive clients.
Ekpenyong, who also explained that the frequent community outreaches were to enhance access to treatment, noted that “some of those infected with the virus believe it is a spiritual attack rather than a medical condition. So, they would rather go to churches or stay at home instead of coming to us. We go on weekly outreaches to churches and homes of TBAs to offer our services to people. We, most times, are able to get some tested and explain that it was best to know one’s status”, Ekpenyong stated.
The media team also visited the home of Iquo Bassey Duke, a traditional birth attendant and President of all TBAs in Cross River State, who said “I have been a birth attendant for more than 27 years and I liaise with medical doctors and nurses to care for my patients”. 
“As it concerns HIV and AIDS, I get the experts to counsel and test my clients. In fact, it is a policy that TBAs do not undertake treatment of anyone pregnant woman without counselling and testing. Once anyone is confirmed as a person with the virus, we make referrals to one of the primary or tertiary facilities so the client can be given proper care”, she said.
Media Partnership
At the end of the two day media tour, Toyin Aderibigbe, the Head of Public Relations and Protocol, who was represented by Shimsugh Chagbe said “the essence of the tour was for you the media to see firsthand the interventions of the Nigerian Government to stem the spread of HIV. We need the media to see the interventions with all our partners in real time so that your inputs can help us reshape policies and increase interventions where relevant”, she explained.
Bilkisu Pai