By Victor Osae IHIDERO, Kaduna
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Kaduna State Government have concluded plans to train 624 adolescents on HIV counseling and demand creation for HIV/AIDS services.
Mrs Catherine Yakubu, Deputy Director, Prevention, Treatment, Care and Psychology, Kaduna State AIDS Control Agency (KADSACA), said this on Wednesday in Rigachikun, Igabi Local Government Area, during the selection and sensitization exercise of the Adolescents and Young People (AYP) tot be trained for the programme.
Yakubu explained that eight AYPs would be selected from 78 wards of seven local government areas namely Chikun, Igabi, Lere, Kagarko, Birnin Gwari, Jaba and Jema’a for the project.
According to her, 468 would be trained as HIV services demand creators, six from every ward, while 156 would be trained for HIV counseling and testing, two from each ward.
UNICEF and the Kaduna state government had in June launched the AYP implementation plan to curb the prevalence of the virus among young people in the state.
The AYP programme is designed to engaged the youths as demand creators for HIV/AIDS services and also serve as HIV counsellors in health centres to make access to services youth-friendly.
The programme which is expected to end by December this year targets 18, 000 HIV/AIDS infected youths who do not know their status and not on treatment.
Commenting on the choice of youths in driving access to health services in the beneficiary Wards in the 7 LGAs, Yakubu stated that deploying a peer-to-peer strategy is imperative considering the fact that there are less barriers in intra-generational communication.
“The reason is simple; HIV services in our health facilities are not youth-friendly. The youths are not comfortable discussing HIV related issues with elderly people.
“They feel comfortable with their peers and open up more. We believe that we will break more grounds when we engage the youths to sensitise their peers about the virus to increase demand for services.
“More youths would come for counselling and testing when they learn that their peers are in charge.”
Meanwhile, UNICEF’s National Lead for AYP AIDS Response, Dr Victoria Isirame, urged governments at federal, state and local levels to increase funding for HIV/AIDS response.
Isirame told journalists this during a Review meeting for HIV Response in Nigeria, held in Kaduna saying that domestic funding had remained a major challenge to HIV response in the country.
“Donors are supporting with funding and expertise, but global funding for HIV is dwindling, and to make a headway in the fight against HIV, government must commit both financial and human resources.”
She, however, said that a lot had been achieved in terms of supporting government at all levels in ensuring that systems are working.
“This was to ensure that women, children and adolescents have access to combination of preventive intervention, treatment, care and support; and ensuring that mother to child transmission of HIV was eliminated.
“We have done quite a lot because the systems at federal state and local government areas were mobilised, sensitised and strengthened.
“But the government must ensure that primary health care in every ward is working; equipped with facilities and sufficient manpower to provide friendly services,” she said.
She explained that the review was to look at achievement, gaps and challenges in the four-year country programme on HIV/AIDS, which started in 2014 and would end in December 2017.