The US Consulate and the governor of Ogun State are seeking for collaboration to increase HIV awareness.

Paediatric HIV: Caritas Nigeria Motivates Clergy, Health Workers on Advocacy

The Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria (Caritas Nigeria), has conducted training for Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria for advocacy to enlighten the public on matters of the Human Immune Virus, HIV, particularly on children and their mothers.

The training which took place in Enugu also included health workers in the southeast states who together were all trained in the Caritas Faith-based Approach to Increase Identification and Treatment of HIV+ Children (FAITH) project.

The lead Pediatrician on the Caritas ACCESS project, Dr. Greg Abiaziem said that the FAITH project is an acronym that capitalizes on pastoral leadership, training, and compassion to address public health programmes, adding that the FAITH project uses different religious platforms to identify women and children with HIV.

Abiaziem stated that Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) is used on people with HIV; a disease which he stressed has no cure, but that with ART, the HIV carriers can live longer, noting that it was important for people to come and be tested for HIV.

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He disclosed that Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV, with Nigeria as the second highest African country with children living with HIV; stating that new HIV carriers are usually between the ages of 15 and 19 years.

The team leader said that the reason why Caritas Nigeria is reaching out to the Churches and Mosques is to help identify the carriers and use the public health data to drive home the message on HIV.

“We want the participants to be pediatric champions, we want the affected children to get enrolled in the treatment programe and our catchment age is between 0 to 19 years. We have a lot of treatment gap in our HIV programme, a lot of people visit these religious homes when they have a problem and so we want to use the faith-based structure to get across to women through whom we can get across to the children for them to come out and test and the ones that are positive will be placed on treatment.

“So bringing together the clergy is because in our society, a lot of people respect the clergymen and so once they come, the clergy will pass on the information. With the information they were given, they will go back with them and sensitize their people to the right information about HIV.

“Apart from giving them the right information about HIV, we also encourage them to come out and test. One can only know his status when he comes out for a test, it doesn’t stop at giving them the information, you create awareness and also encourage them to come out and test, and for those who are positive, we support them for treatment,” Abiaziem said.