Over fourty-eight thousand adolescents and young people tested for HIV.  Eight-five percent (85%) of those who tested positive are accessed treatment.  Improved capacity of 28 health service personnel to provide youth friendly HIV services. Created an adolescents and young people sub-group of the prevention technical working group, which includes representation of 2 youth networks.  These were some of the  key achievements presented at the end of pilot meeting for the Comprehensive HIV Service Delivery for Adolescents and Young People in Benue State, a  two year intervention led by EVA in collaboration with other partners.

These are significant achievements when faced with the fact that while there has been a 24% reduction in AIDS-related mortality amongst adults; there has been a 50% increase amongst adolescents and young people globally between 2004 and 2011.  Experience has shown that adolescents and young people face significant barrier to accessing HIV services including judgmental provider attitude, high cost of services, required parental consent by health personnel; perception of poor quality of services, especially at primary health care levels and limited knowledge about location of services.

The project which was funded by UNICEF and coordinated by Benue State AIDS Control Agency (BenSACA), aimed to remedy this situation by increasing adolescents and young people’s access and use of HIV prevention, testing and treatment services in 2 local government areas of Benue state.  EVA led the implementation of the project in partnership with international partners, other local organization including the National Youth Network on HIV and AIDS (NYNETHA) and Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (AYPIN).

The end of pilot meeting, which was attended by over 100 stakeholders, aimed to share achievement, lessons learnt and challenges from the implementation of pilot project; disseminate the key findings from the operation research conducted and develop a plan for sustaining and scaling-up key components of the pilot project.  The event was chaired by the Wife of the Benue State Governor, represented by Justice Mary Abounu,  the Wife of the Deputy Governor.  In her opening remarks she reiterated the commitment of the new government to ensure that the AIDS epidemic in the state is halted.

Justice Mary Abounu, Wife of the Deputy Governor

Justice Mary Abounu, Wife of the Deputy Governor

Many of the stakeholders at the event, praised EVA for the hard work it did in ensuring the achievements that were presented.

“We at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) are excited to be part of this end of project meeting and to have contributed to the project.  It is not an easy task to work with young people, but EVA has proven capable of working with this group of persons and urged them not to relent.  Well done EVA, BenSACA and all partner who contributed to the success of this pilot” – Regional Manager AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Beneficiaries of the pilot also shared their experiences and the impact the project has had on their abilities.

“Before, I worked on PMTCT and with other older persons.  I have to admit I didn’t know how well to work with young people and it was not surprise that not many of them were coming to our facilities.  When I attended the training on youth friendly health services, I learnt a lot from the young people.  I knew that this knowledge was not meant for me alone.  When I returned to my health facility, I stepped down the training to other staff including our Medical Director. As a result of this, our facility has created a support group for young people living with HIV, where they come to get their treatment and counseling.  The peer support volunteer who was posted to work with us, helped in the process of setting up the group.  We are grateful to EVA for showing us that it is possible to serve young people.” – Mrs. Maddalene Nwakwocha, Referral Coordinator TBT Hospital, Gboko

Beyond all the accolades given that day, there was one message that resonated amongst everyone in the hall was in the statement delivered by the national coordinator of AYPIN.   “This is one association that we are not looking for new members.  We call on everyone including the representative of the Governor’s wife to ensure that our numbers stay the same”.

Although the pilot has come to an end, EVA is working with BenSACA, UNICEF and other partners to design a new intervention that will scale-up the lessons from the pilot within the next 3 months.