By Solomon Ayado
The strive to end HIV/AIDs has become an activity that government at all levels, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and non-governmental organisations, NGOs, are working relentlessly to ensure the implementation. The deadly disease has killed scores of persons, even as health of several others is being affected everyday, without any permanent cure.
In Benue State, the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom is not resting in making sure the spread of HIV is minimized. This had propelled the government to enter into partnership with relevant stakeholders to meet the demands.
Apart from ensuring prevention of the killer disease, the state government has also adopted several preventive measures to foster total control of the infection.
This is why the Benue State AIDs Control Agency, BENSACA in conjunction with implementing partners (IPs) converged on Otukpo for a week stakeholders’ meeting to draw the State Unified Operation Plan (SOUP) for the year 2023.
The aim of the strategic meeting was to enhance collaboration between the government and other stakeholders in providing HIV interventions in the state, throughout the year.
Participants were trained in key thematic areas especially on formulation of intervention activities including HIV testing prevention, treatment, care giving, monitoring and evaluation among others.
The Executive Secretary of BENSACA, Dr. Tyo Terhile Ephraim in his keynote address said it was laudable for participants to attend the meeting to strategise and come out with a workable plan to stem the spread of HIV in the state.
According to Ephraim, the SOUP gives a working plan on all intending activities to the management of HIV in the state.
While commending a major funder of the activities, APIN Public Heath Initiative for financial support to ensure the meeting was held, he further informed that they were carefully selected and so should contribute meaningfully to justice the confidence and for a successful 2023.
Dr. Kelechi Ngwoke, representative of APIN Benue State, in his speech appreciated the state government and other stakeholders for their collaboration in providing HIV interventions especially in the last 5 years, and assured that the organisation is willing to more in the next years of their extended tenure.
He further posited that difficulty in finding new cases has shown that the spread of HIV has reduced but effort must intensify in eradicating it totally.
Also speaking, Mr. Ali Baba of Network of People Living With AIDs in Nigeria (NEPLWAN) stated that over the years, they have been providing HIV intervention in the state but due to the challenge of inadequate funding, much have not been achieved.
Mr. Solomon Ogwuche from EVA appreciated the participants and hoped that the outcome of the meeting will be of help in reducing the spread of HIV in the state.
In his remarks, Mr. Pius Peter O. (NYNETHA) appreciated participants and wished that the outcome of the meeting provides only activities that will reduce the spread of HIV in the state. They all assured of their support for the success of the work plan
NACA Zonal Officer representative, Abiniku David appreciated everyone and explained that the activity was important to both the state and national most especially when the state prepared programs that are in line with the national template in ensuring HIV is reduced to the barest minimum.
While making presentation on PEPFAR/CDC strategic focus and approaches for Benue, Dr. Kelechi Ngwoke explained that PEPFAR cardinal point is to provide equal health to the general population, adolescents and key population.
He said PEPFAR is also evolving ways on how HIV programs can be sustained in the state even when Implementation partners, IPs are no longer accessed.
He noted that “we are looking for partnership from government/stakeholders because they cannot do it alone in terms of providing HIV interventions.
“Our concern is also about Benue State response to HIV epidemic control, partners response, challenges and recommendations,” he stated.
In his presentation on national clinical program and PEPFAR framework for sustainability of HIV response, Dr. Ibilibor Chkwuemeka (AD HSS) explained that PEPFAR is an emergency HIV program designed for 5 years.
“It was expected that within this period, Nigeria can take ownership of HIV intervention. PEPFAR is setting a bold goal of accelerating the response to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a public health threat by 2030, while therefore sustaining HIV interventions so that there is no stagnation.
On the progress, challenges and way forward, Mrs. Rebecca Idoko of BENSACA explained the difference between OP Planning and an OP Plan.
According to her, Operational Planning is a detailed roadmap developed by a team of multi-sectoral experts to accomplish the goals and objectives of a strategic plan while OP Plan creates annual plans for governance, adjudication and administration of entities.
She further pointed out the components of an HIV/AIDS OP which are strategies of the 2021-2025 identified 5 key thematic areas of interventions including prevention, treatment, care and support.
At the moment, the meeting between stakeholders, implementing partners has come and gone. The 2023 Strategic Operational Unified Plan (SOUP) has been designed and ready to be implemented to end the new spread of HIV.
It is hoped that the plan will not only serve as guide to stem the spread of HIV but also create adequate awareness on prevention and treatment, as well as the right living conditions of people living with AIDs.