By; Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.
It was shower of praises in Kwoi Community as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Society for Family Health (SFH) under the supervision of Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA) closed out the eighteen months (18) Adolescents and Young People (AYP), HIV service delivery and prevention programme which begun in October 2014.
The programme which was piloted in two Local Government Areas of Jama’a and Jaba in Kaduna State with the highest HIV prevalence of 9.2% in 2011 and 7.7, 7.0% in 2012 respectively according to the state ministry of health was targeted to reach about one hundred thousand (100,000) AYPs.
At the close out ceremony held at the Kwoi community Town Hall, a traditional ruler, Kpop Kham, HRH Danladi Moude commended the brave initiative by UNICEF and SFH for choosing Jaba and Jama’a LGAs as pilot for the AYP programme.
Maude said the programme has made tremendous impact in the lives of AYPs in their communities as their behavioural pattern towards HIV has changed dramatically.
“Through out this period of 18 months, many young people now have the boldness to approach health facilities for HIV test and counselling and they are now aware of their status.” he noted.
Kpop Kham, who was represented by the District Head of Dura, His Highness, Iliya Bako Byung, appealed passionately to UNICEF to help sustain the programme for other people to benefit from it.
He called on both the state and LGAs to join forces with UNICEF and SFH to ensure sustainability and extention of the programme to other parts of the state and country in general.
In his speech, Chairman Caretaker Committee of Jaba LGA, Hon. Ben Kure who was represented by his Vice, Hon. Kennedy Dsuwa said before the intervention of UNICEF and SFH there has never been partners supporting the LGA in the area of youth HIV programme.
“Let me use this opportunity to commend UNICEF and SFH for deeming it fit to initiate this laudable programme in order to reduce the spread of HIV among AYPs in Jaba LGA.
“I have no doubt in my mind that many of our youths got to know their HIV status and are now adopting appropriate behaviour to remain HIV free while those that are infected now have access to treatment. This has indeed averted uncountable, untimely and unnecessary deaths.” he said.
Reacting to demand made by the people seeking extention and possible expansion of the programme to other LGAs, Dr. Idris Baba, HIV/AIDS Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, revealed that the programme has already been rolled over for another three (3) months to enable it reach a logical conclusion.
Dr. Idris explained that, the idea was for the state government to take over the project after 18 months so it can be sustained but for the change of government which is a little setback to the initial arrangement.
He added, “what we are doing now is to keep it running until the end of June, hoping that by the end of June we might have reach certain level of agreement to enable the state government take over the programme and run it by themselves. The money for the additional 3 months extention has already been released to KADSACA.”
He said with the success recorded so far, UNICEF will summon a meeting of all stakeholders before the end of the year so as to discuss the findings and how the programme can be expanded to Kagarko, Lere, Birni Gwari, Ikara and Chikun LGAs.
On his part, AYP programme manager, Barnabas Anthony of SFH, commended the communities for their response to the programme during the 18 months period.
According to him, the main objective of the programme was to ensure that the proportion of AYP that have been tested and now know their HIV status and accessing appropriate services is increased by 25% in the two LGAs, at the end of the programme.
He said the 100,000 target for the programme was exceeded.
According to Barnabas, ”the programme reached 169, 675 AYPs, that is 93,675 males and 76,260 females with HIV knowledge, while 56, 986, that is 29, 326 males and 27, 660 females accessed HIV counselling and testing as against the 40,000 target.”
Some of the beneficiaries who shared their experiences, narrates how they were able to summon the courage to go for testing. They thank the Demand Creators and the Counsellor Testers for their approaches which they said gave them confidence to overcome the earlier fears of knowing their status and that has now made their health facilities youths friendly.
By; Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.