The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has commenced a project aimed at motivating adolescents and young persons living with HIV to consistently utilize free HIV care and treatment services available in the hospital, attend support group meetings, correctly take their HIV medications, achieve viral suppression and live healthy lives.
Senior Program Officer Adolescent Services of the Institute, Mrs. Grace Adamu said that close to 500 adolescents and young persons living with HIV in Rivers State will benefit from the Community Adolescent Treatment (CATS) project being piloted.
“We commenced the project with a training of health care providers who will support and supervise adolescent peer mentors attached to health care facilities. The peer mentors will then be trained to follow-up on other adolescents living with HIV to ensure that they adhere to their HIV medications and keep clinic appointments.
This model adopted from AFRICAID Zvandiri in Zimbabwe, goes beyond making sure that services in the hospitals are adolescents and youth friendly and flexible. It is tailored towards linking adolescents from the community to health facilities,” she stated.
She explained that benefiting adolescents will receive counseling and testing services, home visits, reminder texts and calls for their next appointment to the hospital.
“There are a lot of challenges that make adolescents not to go to health facilities for their appointments like insecurity. This project will recruit CATS peer mentors locally because they know their way around the community.
We selected these peer mentors aged between 15 and 24 years from health facilities where they are receiving care. These adolescents know their HIV status, are virally suppressed and are ready to share experiences and assist others in the community,” she said.
Mrs. Adamu also stated that more adolescents and young people living with HIV will benefit from the program after successful completion of the pilot phase involving adolescents receiving HIV care and treatment from Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), Ahoada Zonal Hospital, Obio-Akpor One -Stop -Shop, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Resource Center health facilities all in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“These facilities were chosen because they are facilities with a large number of adolescents currently in care and receiving treatment for HIV in the state,” she said.
She added that this program is part of the RIVERS State SURGE project being implemented by the Institute in response to the 2019 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) which estimated that about 79% of people living with HIV in Rivers State were not on treatment.
“Our goal for the RIVERS State SURGE project funded by US PEPFAR through Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), is to place at least 170,166 people living with HIV (PLHIV) on treatment by bridging the treatment gap from the stated 21% to 81%, and attain viral suppression for at least 161,657 PLHIVs on treatment.
This CATs model will improve the general outcomes of HIV care and treatment” Mrs. Adamu said.