Tuesday, April 29, 2014

HIV-Free NW/SW Project Shares Partnership Lessons with Journalists

By Fai Cassian Ndi

  • Adopt Sensitization/ Community Mobilization Strategies              
The Cameroon Baptist Convention-CBC Health Board has teamed up with the print and audiovisual journalists in the North West Region to intensify it’s strive for a zero HIV infection, zero discrimination and to introduce the Option B+ (another form of medication in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV) which Cameroon has opted for in its 2015 health policy). Addressing the media at the CBC Conference hall on April 24, 2014, the Business Manager of the project, Monju Johnson noted with a lot of satisfaction that the successes of the project have ignited hopes in families. Monju Johnson, who represented the CBC Director of Health Services Dr. Tih Pius Muffih continued that the community-based Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Program in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon which is funded under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief –PEPFAR (through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-CDC, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Elizabeth Glacer Pediatric AIDS Foundation) stands the chance of increasing HIV-free survival and reducing HIV-related maternal and child mortality by increasing PMTCT uptake in the two regions. To this, he added that it is hoped that by 2016 90% of pregnant women and HIV-exposed infants will be protected. With these positive results, he reiterated that the HIV-Free North West and South West Project  has also reinforced the Cameroon-USA government partnership, and it these positive results “the US Government is coming back fully” to support projects in Cameroon. In his concluding statement on why journalists should partner with the project for it to attain it goal in order to rescue humanity, he expressed gratitude for “we are doing it for humanity”.
On his part, Nkouh Godlove who presented a paper on the progression of HIV in human system, ARV intervention and consequences of defaulting drugs told journalists that the prevalent rate in Cameroon is about 7.9% and variedly distributed between the age ranges 15-41 years. According to Nkuoh Godlove, the prevalent rate in the North West stands at 6.3%, the South West Region at 5.2%, while the South Region has the highest in the country with 7.3%, and the Extreme North has the lowest with 1.2%. He revealed that by 1981, 14 million children were orphans in Sub Saharan Africa due to AIDS. He however noted with optimism that anti-retroviral drugs have reduced the number of people living with AIDS. Oral, anal and vaginal sex, he noted are responsible for 90% of the infections. Nkuoh Godlove also revealed to journalists that statistics show that 90% of the infections in infants are through mother to child, 5-10% during pregnancy, 15-20% during labour, and 5-25% during breastfeeding.  In order to remedy the situation, he said that the HIV-free North West/ South West Project is working in the key domains of PMTCT, HIV counseling and testing, the administration of ART( Treatment and prophylaxis), low risk obstetrical practices, psychosocial support to the infected woman and her family, nutritional support( infant feeding options). These he ended are the success areas.

Orientations of the Project
Kuni Esther presenting the results of the project
In her presentation, Kuni Esther, the Coordinator of the project painted a vivid result-oriented report which specified the project’s output and partnership with service providers, the media, community leaders, religious bodies and government services. She however revealed that it is thanks to the engagement of others that the fruitful partnership yielded good results given that within the project scope more community mobilization components were engaged to make sure that all pregnant women go for early Antenatal care-ANC and PMTCT services. According to Kuni Esther PMTCT has scaled up its sites in the North West and South West Regions to 591(341sites in the North West and 250 sites in the South West Region). Besides, the project also trained 957 service providers who are actually providing PMTCT services in the two regions as well as empowered 370 peer educators, 70 MCH aides, trained 71 church leaders, and 116 Muslim leaders  who are all in the field carrying out sensitization on ANC and following-up PMTCT clients. More so, the project also acquired 35 motorbikes to ease field activities, empowered District staff and PMTCT coordinators on supply chain management, installed 80 CD4 machines (45 in the North West and 35 in the South West), and during year two of the project, 16 facilities were also dotted with short message service machines which prints PCR results on the spot.
She also told journalists that the CBC Health Board is piloting option B+ treatment regimen in two districts namely Bamenda in the North West and Kumba in the South West Region. She called on journalists to team up with the project so as to pass the information to the various communities.

Test and Treat (Option B+ Regimen)
Lem Edith presenting Option B+
Lem Edith in presenting the Option B+, very sounded optimistic adding that this universal life long ART for all pregnant and breastfeeding women regardless of clinical and or immunological stage is the best because no CD4 count is needed to start treatment. She said that the drug is more advantageous because it is simple, only on drug a day and leads to optimal reduction of HIV Mother To Child Transmission-MTCT. Above all, it prevents HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners and also provides better opportunities for ART integration in a MNCH set up. While introducing the Option B+, Lem Edith called on journalists to sensitize the public on the new regimen which the CBC Health Board is implementing its pilot phase in Bamenda and Kumba. Accordingly, Lem Edith explained that the test and treat (Option B+) is the best for Cameroon given that the problems of obtaining CD4 Counts, the lack of skilled personnel to interpret results will be overcome. Drawing her inspiration from Rwnada, Uganda and Malawi where the Option B+ has generated very positive results, she emphasized that this regimen is easy and reduces transmission from mother to child. According to statistics presented, there are 12 sites in the North West Region and 10 sites in the South West Region. She also revealed that of the 438 women enrolled in the pilot phase, 184 switched from the old regimen while 34others discontinued the uptake. The project she added has made provisions for the estimated 600 women for the next 18 months.
Alphonse Abanda
On the other hand, the Monitoring and Evaluation officer of the project presented very convincing statistics of the project from year one to year two. One thing was obvious that there is still need for journalists to sensitize the public so that the project meets up with its target. Besides, it was evidently clear that men hardly accompany their wives for Antenatal care.

The project Documentation Supervisor, Alphonse Abanda while using a participatory approach in introducing the role of the media in the project highlighted some common errors in communication. In his assessment of the radio drama (talk-shows) he coordinated experience sharing and ignited suggestions from participants to better-up sensitization. It was suggested that the project could equally sponsor call-in programmes, radio interactive programmes. However prospects as to whether the project would not institute some sort of a “Health Messenger” for the print media to carryout banners on awareness creation abound high. 

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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