The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has launched a project, aimed at motivating adolescents and young persons living with HIV to consistently utilise free HIV care and treatment in the hospitals.

Mrs Grace Adamu, Senior Programme Officer Adolescent Services, IHVN, who made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), on Friday in Abuja, the project is aimed at reducing the viral load and keeping them healthy.

She said that close to 500 adolescents and young persons living with HIV in Rivers would 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,” she said.

Adamu disclosed that the model was adopted from AFRICAID Zvandiri in Zimbabwe, and goes beyond making sure that services in the hospitals were adolescents and youth friendly and flexible.

She said It was tailored towards linking adolescents from the community to
health facilities.

She explained that benefiting adolescents would 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, “ she said.

According to her, 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.”

Adamu stated that more adolescents and young people living with HIV would benefit from the program after successful completion of the pilot phase involving adolescents receiving HIV care and treatment from the Rivers University Teaching Hospital.

She said Ahoada Zonal Hospital, Obio-Akpor One -Stop -Shop, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Resource Centre health facilities all in Port Harcourt, Rivers also part of the project.

“These facilities were chosen because they have a large number of adolescents currently in care and receiving treatment for HIV in the state,” she said.

NAN reports that the program is part the RIVERS State SURGE project being implemented by the IHVN in response to the 2019 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS).

The survey estimated that about 79 per cent of people living with HIV in Rivers State were not on treatment.

The goal for the RIVERS State SURGE project funded by U.S. PEPFAR through Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), is to place at least 170,166 people living with HIV (PLHIV) on treatment.

This is to be done by bridging the treatment gap from the stated 21 per cent to 81 per cent and attaining viral suppression for at least 161,657 PLHIVs on treatment.

This CATs model expected to improve the general outcomes of HIV care and treatment.

(NAN)