The Hon. Commissioner for Health, Women Affairs and Social Development, Barr (Mrs) Ngozi Njoku, recently played host to Excellence Community Education Welfare Scheme (ECEWS). The occasion was a courtesy visit by the Imo State Team to brief the newly appointed commissioner on the programs of ECEWS, coverage and accomplishments.
Dr. Tochukwu Noh, the ECEWS State Program Manager for Imo State who led the ECEWS delegation on the visit congratulated the Hon. Commissioner on her well-deserved appointment, and thanked the Ministry for the tremendous support to the program of ECEWS in Imo State. He used the opportunity to update the Commissioner on activities of the organization in the state including comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, and care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS under the CDC/PEPFAR-funded Local Capacity Enhancement Project (LOCATE) Programme. According to the State Program Manager, ECEWS has expanded access, enabling 133,017 individuals to know their HIV status. 1571 individuals living with HIV have been provided with care and treatment services across 2 comprehensive facilities, with 288 families benefiting from the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Additionally 471 orphans and vulnerable children have been provided with healthcare, nutrition, protection, and educational services under the project. Health systems have been strengthened through capacity building for health workers in various domains of HIV intervention, infrastructural development, and quality control.
Responding, the Hon. Commissioner, expressed appreciation for the work of ECEWS in the state, and thanked staff and volunteers for their commitment and contribution to efforts made at halting and reversing the trend of HIV in the state. She pledged her continuous support of the work of the organization, noting that they were in alignment with the Governor’s vision of touching lives.
Also in attendance at the visit was Dr. Joseph Okeagu – Permanent Secretary, Dr. Emeh Desmond – State AIDS Program Coordinator, a representative of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and a team from the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH).
The LOCATE project, funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the US President Emergency Funds for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is in its third year of operation. The Project is implemented in Okigwe Senatorial Zone covering the six LGAs – Okigwe, Onuimo, Isialla Mbano, Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma and Obowo, supporting services in 37 health facilities and one Community Based Organization – Community Life Advancement Project (CLAP).
DO you know that there are male condoms and there are female condoms? Hearing it for the first time? Then you are not alone. Generally, condom is one product that is used more than it is known, most people wish to use it but are ashamed to purchase it, most people wish to know about it but are unwilling to discuss it, and above all, most women are unaware of the fact that there exist a condom designed for their anatomy.
Owing to the controversies surrounding condom use, ECEWS in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health under the auspices of United Nations population fund (UNFPA) organized a 2-day step down training in Akwa Ibom State to increase the overall awareness of condom programming and address the seeming controversies.
The training which was held on September, 28-29 Summit Complex, Uyo, had in attendance select HIV prevention officers from private health facilities. Issues on Male and female condoms, condom lubricant, attitude of condom vendors/providers, myths and conceptions of condoms were elaborated on.
The HIV/AIDS State Program Coordinator, Dr Markson, while appreciating the participants for acquiescing to being trained by non-medical personnel also expressed conviction that sooner than later, the medical/non-medical collaboration will yield fruits.
While comparing the many benefits of condom with its low usage in the state, He says; “it therefore becomes necessary on us to inject condom advocates into the society if we need to win this war, we need to bring down the prevalence rate of HIV in Akwa Ibom State. We just have to have so many of us promoting condoms in our little corners, in our private clinics, in our churches.”
The Executive Director, ECEWS, appreciated the participants for being part of the training. He however encouraged them to translate the knowledge gained into action by setting up confidence centers in their facilities to attract more youths to access HIV/FP services.
Valentine, a participant from State Ministry of Health, Akwa Ibom, has this to say; “Being a new person in the place, the training has really increased my awareness in Condom Programming. I have learnt about the barriers in Condom use. I have also learnt about the misconceptions, Condom forecasting, quantification and other things. I must commend ECEWS for what they have done, I wish they will continue this because it has really been of help to me.”
Imaobong Johnson representing Utibeima Medical Center explains how good she is in Condom Programming following this training. “They have told us the proper use of condom, those misconceptions others had and myself too, they have been able to clear those doubts and am very good at it now”. She says.
It is thus believed that this training will achieve its primary objective, that of preventing HIV transmission in Akwa Ibom and by extension, the world.
The UNFPA West and Central African Regional Head of HIV, Mr. Pierre Robert, has expressed willingness to further support ECEWS to create a future free of HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies for the young people of Nigeria.
After a tour round the UNFPA funded ECEWS confidence center, Calabar Street, Uyo, in company with, Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA programme analyst for Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health, Mr. Robert was impressed with the positive things going on in the center. He says, “I was very encouraged to see a lot of young women come in here. It is a place where young people can come and learn about Reproductive Health and HIV. You can freely come in at any time and receive the services that you need in a very safe environment. It is a very good initiative and I support it very much.
Speaking further, He urged ECEWS to keep doing its good work to attract more young people to the center. “You will notice that when people can speak openly and freely about sexuality and about Family Planning, they will be healthier. You will have less unwanted pregnancies, less STIs, less HIV.”
In his remark, the Executive Director of ECEWS, Andy Eyo expressed appreciation to UNFPA for the privilege of partnership granted ECEWS. He further stated that the confidence center though having the appearance of gaming center serves as a hub to attract all kinds of people including sex workers to access Sexual and Reproductive Health/HIV services adding that 927 people have been tested for HIV/Hepatitis B&C between Jan-Sept with 39 positives recorded.
He however encouraged UNFPA to leverage on the serenity and popularity of the center to scale up Family planning services.
Mr. Eyo also identified the Calabar Carnival being the biggest street party in Africa and the Christmas Village in Akwa Ibom State as viable opportunities to accentuate sensitization on Sexual and Reproductive Health/HIV.
The Information/Technology Manager, Mr. Samuel Benson demonstrated the use of the ECEWS confidence center social media App which provides an opportunity for everyone to chat with HIV, Family Planning and Sexual/Reproductive Health Counsellors even at the comfort of their homes.