Wednesday, April 24, 2019
   
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Community Groups Give Relief to People Living with HIV


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imagesOne of the worries Caroline Udoh has had since she commenced anti-retroviral treatment in 2007 is her transportation cost of ₦300 or more to the hospital for drug pick-up every two months. 61 year old Caroline, who used to sell home grown vegetables can’t afford to sustain her business anymore due to lack of funds and this makes it even more difficult for her to get to the clinic. “Even when I manage to get money for transportation, I also worry about money to buy food in the clinic because I spend at least six hours on the queue for check-up and drugs.”

Fatima Mohammed’s worry when going to Mararaba Gurku Medical Center where she accesses her treatment is her three year old daughter. “When I carry her to the hospital, she cries because heat is too much,” she says. She also has to make special arrangements with the teachers of her two elder children because she often stays in the clinic from morning till evening. “I go around 5:30 or 6:00am and come back 4:00 or 5:00pm because of the many people that need to be attended to,” she says.

It is to ease access to antiretroviral treatment and address challenges Caroline, Fatima and many others face that Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) introduced the Community ART Group (CAG) initiative.

IHVN Assistant Director Prevention, Care and Treatment, Mrs. Asabe Gomwalk, says that the initiative is for patients who are stable on treatment and only need regular hospital visits to collect their drugs. “Health care providers and officials of support groups create awareness through health education both at the facility and community levels to mobilize People Living with HIV and get them to buy-into this initiative. Groups of clients who live in the same location are formed and each member collects the drugs on behalf of all other members on a rotational basis. They return to the community, meet at a venue that they have already selected and distribute the antiretroviral drugs amongst themselves.”

Caroline says she worries less about transportation costs now because she only goes for drug pick up once in a year. “Since I joined them, someone goes and collects my drugs and calls me. I meet with them close to my house and we all collect our drugs. I like it!” She says.

Fatima also worries less about where to keep her children when she goes to the hospital. She is now able to focus on her business of selling zobo and kunu. “Now, it is better because I have time and I’m able to sell my things, bathe my children, carry and pick them to and from school,” Fatima says.

Joy John coordinates a group in Kabayi in the outskirts of Abuja. She makes sure all the members of her group meet at the designated location in her community to collect their drugs. “When we meet, I remind them about the CD4 test they need to do every six months and the viral load test they need to do every six months or annually. Whoever picks up the drugs also tells us whatever announcements were made in the hospital,” she says.

Martina Solomon, who volunteers at the Antiretroviral Treatment Clinic in Mararaba Gurku Medical Center, says that the initiative has improved the services they render. “People were very many before we started Community ART Group but now the crowd has reduced and the work load on the people that are working here is less,” she says.

So far, more than 500 people living with HIV have formed 88 groups to benefit from the CAG initiative which IHVN implements in the Federal Capital Territory and Nasarawa State with funding from the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control through PEPFAR.

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